Review: Tora No O Wo Fumu Otokotachi (The Men Who Tread On The Tiger’s Tail, 1945)

the men who tread on the tiger's tail

There’s really no reason to be stepping on a tiger’s tail, c’mon!

Written By: Akira Kurosawa
Directed By: Akira Kurosawa

This is the earliest film I have seen from Akira Kurosawa. It’s also the shortest film I have seen from Kurosawa-san. Those two elements are important as I felt that Tora No O Wo Fumu Otokotachi showed flashes of the Kurosawa-san that was to come, but was also lacking in key areas. Mostly I came away from Tora No O Wo Fumu Otokotachi thinking that there was more to this tale than was on screen. I know this is based on Japanese myth, as well as a couple of plays, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the film could have used more breadth. Kurosawa-san’s vision felt crunched down, like he had more to say but he couldn’t figure out how to say it so he went with the best he could muster. In this case Kurosawa-san’s best is still pretty darn good, but it’s far from the greatness that Kurosawa-san is capable of.

My biggest beef with Tora No O Wo Fumu Otokotachi was the character of the Porter, specifically the way Ken’ichi Enomoto chose to portray the character. I was annoyed from the start by the Porter, and during the showdown that makes up the majority of the film I felt Enomoto-san’s overacting was a major detriment to the tension of that scene. His facial expressions and over the top mannerisms distracted me from what was happening with the rest of the characters. The acting of Enomoto-san had me rolling my eyes, and it was very hard for the film to recover from the moments when the camera was focusing on his ridiculously over the top performance.

The other problem I had with Tora No O Wo Fumu Otokotachi was the implementation of a chorus. Said chorus tells us what is happening on screen right after it has happened and I didn’t need that. Perhaps there’s some sort of artistic expression on display with the chorus, but it didn’t work for me. I’m not a fan of narration that tells me what is happening on screen as the visuals are doing the same thing. The chorus in Tora No O Wo Fumu Otokotachi served the same purpose, and both times it popped up I was instantly taken out of the film.

I’ve focused mainly on the negatives of Tora No O Wo Fumu Otokotachi, but I did actually like the film. The main showdown in the film was tense and very well done. The back and forth between the two groups was handled so as to create a yo yo effect of tension. Kurosawa-san doesn’t move too fast through this section, instead he takes his time and allows for the scene to dominate the film. It was fascinating to watch Kurosawa-san establish an almost languid pace while at the same time creating a sequence of great suspense and almost action like build-up.

Tora No O Wo Fumu Otokotachi is a relatively well made film that was enjoyable to watch. It’s not long, which is both a positive and a negative as far as the quality of the film is concerned. The overacting of Enomoto-san is hard to overlook, but I was able to get past it enough to enjoy the rest of Kurosawa-san’s film. It’s not among Kurosawa-san’s best, but Tora No O Wo Fumu Otokotachi is a pleasant enough film and time spent in the early part of Kurosawa-san’s career is always welcome.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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2 responses to “Review: Tora No O Wo Fumu Otokotachi (The Men Who Tread On The Tiger’s Tail, 1945)

  1. Hmmm. I need to see this now, as it’s also one I’ve missed out on. From others, I hear it’s “stagey”, but so are a lot of films that are either based on plays or other works that have been previously presented as such…

  2. It’s certainly stagey, but I don’t mind films that are stagey. It all depends on what is done with the material and whether the film feels stuck in its stage format.

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