16 April 2004 | frojavigdis
Predictable and melodramatic
I've watched the entire trilogy of the Musashi Miyamoto films, of which this film is the second part. The first film, titled simply "Musashi Miyamoto," introduces us to the characters of this and the third film. Without having seen the first film and developing some interest in the welfare of the characters, I certainly wouldn't have sat through the second and third films.
"Duel at Ichijoji Temple," this film, deals with Musashi's exploits as a sort of samurai knight-errant, seeking glory in a very ambiguous and roundabout way. Two women are trailing after him, as Kurosawa films would say, "like goldfish dung." Musashi himself is a flat character on whom Toshiro Mifune's acting skills are wasted. He displays very little emotion or intellect, despite his supposed interest in one of the women and enlightening education by his monk teacher (as we saw in the first film).
If Musashi is flat, the female characters are steamrolled. Their hand wringing, collapsing, and sobbing is typical of American movies of this time period and grows tedious in a samurai film. Having seen other films from this time period set in the days of samurai, I've seen that much more can be done with female characters. The plot was likewise predictable and slow-moving.
If you don't care about characters or plot, the high points of the movie may compensate: beautiful color landscapes and Toshiro Mifune's thrilling fight scenes. Otherwise, I recommend films by Kurosawa or Mizoguchi ("Sanjuro," the mysterious "Ugetsu") over this trilogy. 5/10