Keanu Reeves Narrates Sumblime ‘Mifune: The Last Samurai’ Documentary


Now playing in select theaters, Mifune: The Last Samurai is a documentary that spotlights the legendary career of Toshiro Mifune. Narrated by Keanu Reeves, the feature contains interviews with past Mifune collaborators as well as directors Steven Spielberg (he directed Mifune in 1941) and Martin Scorsese. Oscar winning director Steven Okazaki directs the film, and one would assume this was a dream project for the filmmaker.

“I saw my first Mifune film when I was about 12 years old,” said Okazaki. “The community center in Venice, Ca. ran a 16mm print. They had a crummy, noisy project and a king size bed sheet as a screen. I remember the final scenes from Seven Samurai vividly. And then my mother was a big Japanese film fan so we went to the Toho La Brea to see the Mifune releases.”

Okazaki was impressed with Reeves’ work in the cinephile centric documentary Side By Side, and adding the actor to the project, coupled with receiving support from Mifune and director Akira Kurosawa’s families, were integral to the documentary’s creative success.

“There is just an everyman quality that Mifune had. Mifune didn’t have handlers or agents around him all the time and Keanu Reeves likewise doesn’t take himself too seriously,” said Okazaki, whose previous directing credits include Black Tar Heroin: the Dark End of the Street and Living on Tokyo Time. “He’s not protected by an entourage. He just rolls up to the sound recording place on his motorcycle and says, ‘Let’s get to work.’ I thought that would somehow fit. Luckily, we have been getting great responses to the narration.”

By showcasing the intricate working relationship between Mifune and Kurosawa, Mifune: The Last Samurai also delves into the importance of artistic collaboration and continuing that journey through thick and thin (the pair made 16 films together). It’s a partnership that isn’t lost on Riki Mifune, the late actor’s grandson.

“Since I’m also in the film production business, I have a lot of opportunities to see the Mifune films,” said Riki Mifune. “Some of the films, I’ve seen multiple times especially the ones that I really like. Also, a lot of the film directors I work with compare their work to the Kurosawa films. So if the director is trying to portray a strong female character, he would compare her to the princess to the Throne of Blood. Since I was young, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to see his films and regarding my favorite films, they would be the Kurosawa films. For example with Yojimbo, there is not a single scene that bores you. It’s always exciting and the story is always moving forward.”

Whether you’re a cinephile who’s enamored with Mifune’s work or a neophyte to Japanese cinema, Mifune: The Last Samurai is a well crafted and inspired documentary which should steer you down a highly immersive cinematic path.

Mifune: The Last Samurai opens in Los Angeles, CA (Laemmle-Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre) and Cambridge, MA (Landmark’s Kendall Square Cinema) on Friday, December 2. On December 9, the documentary hits the Landmark Theatres in San Francisco, CA and Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley, CA.

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Posted by: Greg Srisavasdi

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