8 September 2005 | gmwhite
Sequel to Rikyu
It is hard to fault this film. I can only assume that its low rating on the IMDb was in part caused by people who a) never saw Rikyu, and were thus unprepared for this film, or b) saw Rikyu, didn't like it, but for some reason saw this one too.
'Basarah - Princess Goh' continues both the plot and the style of Rikyu, a historical drama. The major characters this time are the princess of the title, who is the adopted daughter of Hideyoshi. She seems almost like two different characters, as the action in the film is separated by a jump of several years. The new tea-master, successor to Rikyu, is Oribe, who is a quite different personality, younger, and a little more flamboyant than his predecessor. Another major character is Usu, the gardener of Oribe. His centrality in much of the story, I think, is what tips this film away from the politics and intrigue of Rikyu towards a more character-based drama. There is the usual array of governors and petty warlords to flesh out the political intrigues underlying the story, though they hardly dominate the screen-time, even if essential for the plot.
The photography is superb, and with some stunning outdoor scenes for contrast, it looks even better than Rikyu. The director Teshigahara spent his time between film-making and flower-arranging, of which he was also a master. His eye for detail, shot-framing, colour and movement are superb. I'm glad the plot moved forward relatively slowly, so I had time to take in the visuals. Everything on screen seemed to belong there, like brush-strokes on a masterpiece.
Scenery and sets aside, the actors have been well-cast and convincingly present the story, which seems to repeat similar themes to those of 'Rikyu': political power versus artistic refinement, represented by the tea master and the intricate tea rituals, paraphernalia and etiquette. However, even these emphases seem less strong here than in Rikyu. The characters, accordingly, seem less like types, and more like real people. They do not 'represent' political power vs. artistic refinement so clearly as in Rikyu, and as mentioned above, the significance of Usu, the tea master's gardener, and his reciprocated feelings for the princess, add an additional element of love across class boundaries, though this is never made explicit (thankfully, since is a tired theme, much better left, as here, in the substrata).
Overall, this is essential viewing for anyone that enjoyed 'Rikyu'. If you didn't like 'Rikyu', don't expect anything else from this film. If you can stand slow pace, and enjoy sumptuous visuals, I heartily recommend it, but if you haven't seen 'Rikyu', see it first.