21 April 2016 | net_orders
Rarity: A Samurai Film For Grown Ups!
Viewed at CineMatsuri 2016. Director Setsurô Wakamatsu delivers high drama (without resorting to melodrama) set at the dawn of the Meiji Restoration (a time of radical/rapid cultural change that abolished feudalism and eliminated employment opportunities for the samurai solders who had enforced this fragmented form of autocratic government). Refreshingly, Wakamatsu does not rely on sword-swinging stunt actors and high body counts to support his film (there is a story-driven modicum of action confined to the opening scenes), but, instead, employs veteran acting talent to carry the tale forward. This is essentially a two-character photo play with excellent performances delivered by Kiichi Nakai and Hiroshi Abe. They are skillful actors who capture and unrelentingly hold the viewer's attention for almost two hours without resorting to the crutches of CGI and set-piece spectacles. The hallmark of truly great acting! Unlike what has (unfortunately) become traditional movie samurai-speak (i.e., mumbling/muttering), lines are clearly enunciated as if on the live stage. Wakamatsu also provides a very suspenseful ending. Actually, two of them! Cinematography (semi-wide screen, color), lighting, set decoration, and sound are very good. Subtitles are fine. Snow effects are especially well done. There is one major continuity glitch which occurs in the closing scenes: two swords suddenly appear side-by-side on the ground after one has been sheathed in the previous scene. Since the Director seems to be making a symbolic point, the sheathing scene would seem well worth re-shooting (or cutting). Highly recommended. WILLIAM FLANIGAN, PhD.