Reading and watching Samurai movies and stuff

10 10 2010

I started reading Human Action by Ludwig von Mises last week.  I’d been meaning to do so, but…it’s a little daunting.  I tried reading it last summer, but just wasn’t ready; the first sections (“Acting Man” and “The Epistemological Problems of Human Action”) were so unlike anything I had ever tried reading before, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.

Not so this time.  While hardly a breeze to read through (I think it’s still a bit over my head), I’m beginning to see how Mises builds a coherent economic theory from the very bottom (acting man) all the way to the top (the complex global economy we take for granted), dismissing common myths and misconceptions with brutal efficiency along the way.

Still, it’s a kind of exhausting read, so I decided to rent some Akira Kurosawa films and relax between reading sessions.  Last semester, I watched Seven Samurai and Ikiru and I was impressed.  I’m not one of those guys that’s bizarrely fascinated by Japan, but I have come to like Samurai films.  Probably because they’re basically Westerns (Kurosawa was influenced by American cowboy films) that in turn went on to influence other Westerns.

For example, Yojimbo, which I watched yesterday, was basically A Fistful of Dollars in feudal Japan .  Probably because Sergio Leone basically made A Fistful of Dollars as a “tribute” (read: shot-for-shot remake) of Yojimbo.  I can’t claim to be a film critic, and this comparison isn’t just unoriginal: it’s blatantly obvious.


Just add tumbleweeds and Morricone music...

Sanjuro, the sequel to Yojimbo, didn’t directly lead to any Western remakes, and may not be as well-known.  Still, I think I liked it better.  The pace was faster, and the Stranger (Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” in the Leone trilogy), played by Toshiro Mifune, got to ham it up a bit more to great effect.



Mifune's humorous, scheming "Stranger" character

I don’t buy DVDs very often–especially now that BluRay has begun its slow takeover of the hard-copy media world–but I think I might start accumulating Kurosawa films.  In fact, I liked the message Ikiru, the story of a dying bureaucrat who decides to cut through the red tape he has spent his life creating to make a real difference, that I think I may watch it again sometime and comment on it.

In the mean time, I’m back to reading.  Pick up Seven Samurai or one of the other films mentioned when you get the chance.  Once you get used to the pacing, you’ll find a lot of (often subtle) humor that really translates, as well as some great messages about honor and dedication to principle.





One response

3 11 2010

Seven Samurai is showing at the DFT this weekend. Too bad I am not in town to see it.

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