27 February 2015 | mevmijaumau
47 Samurai (1962)
Chushingura (47 Samurai) is director Hiroshi Inagaki's '60s big budget vision of the mythicized historical event that occurred at the beginning of the 18th century, about a lord being forced to commit harakiri after offending another, high ranking Edo lord, named Kira. After the former's death, his 47 vassals begin plotting a revenge against Kira, and after killing him, they're forced to commit ritual suicide themselves in order to reclaim their honor. The story has a legendary status in Japan, and has been adapted to film too many times to count.
Inagaki's version is a color period piece with 3+ hours of runtime, in style and execution very similar to the period films you'd usually see from Hollywood. Unfortunately, this also means that the director's personal touch is barely felt and the movie is very conventional within the boundaries of period films. It's divided into two parts; Blossoms and Snow, has an interesting traditional soundtrack (which almost amounts to Godzilla's theme near the climax) and stars many famous Japanese actors, like Takashi Shimura, Setsuko Hara (in her final role), and Toshiro Mifune, who's supposed to be the selling point but in actuality has little screen time.
The movie's pace is not really well thought out, in my opinion. The build-up takes ages, and while the 20-minute climactic action sequence is sort of satisfying, the rest of the film is too long, focusing on some irrelevant stuff, and overall, it doesn't feel like it'll ever amount to something, it just stagnates in boredom, without ever raising tension. The characters are too numerous, hard to keep track of, and mostly uninteresting. Besides some rudimentary romance subplots, the character of Kira is like a comic book villain, even going as far as bluntly saying two or three times that all he cares about is sex and money.
One good thing about this snoozefest, however, is the cinematography. Although the transfer isn't perfect, the traditional Japanese visual tone reserved for jidaigeki films is present in all of its colorful glory. Utilization of indoor space, multicolored clothing and interiors, as well as some nice panoramas, make the movie at the very least pretty to look at.
3 hours and 20 minutes is way too much time for the story to unfold, and most of the screen time is spent on tedium. However, it's not completely bad because the final fight scene (more like, the only fight scene) and the visuals save it from being a colossal disaster.