14 April 2017 | detflygandespaghettimons
A Good Telling of the Miyamoto-Story!
This is a Miyamoto story beginning in median res. We first witness Musashi as he's just been released from an 3-year imprisonment by a Buddhist monk. Having skipped the man's backstory, we're instead introduced to him by a reiteration of his tribulations and aspirations. Musashi possesses an zealous desire to be unmatched with the sword, be just as unrivaled in virtue, and is forced to deny himself the love of a infatuated woman who chases after him so that he can solely give himself to the warrior's path.
After that, Musashi is off to the Ichijoji Temple and the duels begin!
This is one neatly directed movie. You can just tell that the director -- Daisuke Itô -- got his start in the silent days of cinema. He brings an expressive visual orientation to the filmmaking that heightens the material. This is especially forthcoming in the numerous duel scenes, where Itô's visual imagination and camera trickery compensates for the lacking choreography and creates some rousing confrontations.
This is at heart a thematically-focused movie. It centers around Musashi's quest to be a master fencer, and what it truly means to have mastered the sword, questions of virtue and self-mastery promulgating the film. Itô makes this compelling enough, but when the films diverts itself to other matters like Musashi's unfulfilled love or the young pupil that travels alongside him the film, as is usual for this genre, feels a lot more stale and unengaging. People not familiar with the Miyamoto tale though may feel blindsighted by the way we're just thrusted into the narrative as well as the lack of a proper resolution to his quest at the end.
Chiezô Kataoka plays the hero's role. He made innumerable films like these in his years. I always found him passable yet fading in comparison to other actors who armed themselves with the Samuraij's blade.
Overall, this is definitely a good and classical chambara flick, with Itô's visual direction giving it a leg-up. I give it a strong 6/10.