Cutting Edge Issue 2 - Page 14

Toshiro Mifune also came to epitomize a certain type of actor with deep roots in classical Japanese performance, the tateyaku, the heroic leading man who had stepped onto the stage directly from the pages of epic military romances and samurai mythology. Critic Tadao Sato has written extensively about the tateyaku personality in films and its derivation from the Kabuki stage. Through his descriptions of the Japanese manly ideal as represented by the tateyaku – strongwilled, brave, ascetic, and selfsacrificing – the reader can envision Toshiro Mifune. In contrast was the nimaime-type, the softer, gentler romantic heroes of domestic love-dramas. Mifune stands firmly in the tateyaku camp, and as a result has played almost no love scenes in his long career. Still, he has managed to invest the tateyaku stereotype with far greater complexity and depth of feeling than any of its more rigid exponents. Or, as Donald Richie puts it, “Mifune always looks as though he would rather sleep with something other than his sword.” Toshiro Mifune also came to epitomize a certain type of actor with deep roots in classical Japanese performance, the tateyaku, the heroic leading man who had stepped onto the stage directly from the pages of epic military romances and samurai mythology Mifune was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese government in 1993. Sadly, in his last years he was plagued with Alzheimer’s Syndrome and he died of organ failure on the 24th December 1997, in Mitaka city, Tokyo, just a few months before the death of the director with whose name he will forever be linked, Akira Kurosawa. 12 | CUTTING EDGE Marriage One of Mifune’s fellow performers, one of the 32 women chosen during the new faces contest, was Sachiko Yoshimine. Eight years Mifune’s junior, she came from a respected Tokyo family. They fell in love and Mifune soon proposed marriage. Yoshimine’s parents were strongly opposed to the union because Mifune was a non-Buddhist as well as a native Manchurian; his choice of profession also made him undesirable, as actors were generally assumed to be irresponsible and financially incapable of supporting a family. Director Senkichi Taniguchi, with the help of Akira Kurosawa, convinced the Yoshimine family to allow the marriage. It took place in February 1950. In November of the same year, their first son, Shiro was born. In 1955, they had a second son, Takeshi. Mifune’s daughter M ika was born to his mistress, actress Mika Kitagawa, in 1982. Above, at home in Mitaka, and below left, on set in his favoured car during shooting; a distinct juxtaposition from the shot below!