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17 10월, 2007

Reenvisioning the Samurai Tale

For a movie that I avoided watching for weeks, Samurai Fiction (1998) was definitely a welcome surprise. Director Hiroyuki Nakano revisits the samurai movies with a tongue-in-cheek flair that tickles but still contains the sincere homage to those who had come before. Akira Kurosawa comes readily to mind (looove him!). Set in the Edo period and filmed almost totally in black and white, one would think that this would end up as a bland rehash with some window-dressing to make it appealing to the younger crew and in some ways it is, but only in the best way and not with the bland rehash bit. He took a genre that I am personally a great fan of, and did all the right things to reinvigorate it.

The plot is quite basic as the it is in itself it a take on a particular genre of movies. A ronin Rannosuke Kazamatsuri (the acting debut for Hotei Tomoyasu) initially hired by a clan and given the privilege of guarding the clan's prized possession, ends up stealing the weapon. He is given chase by the clan's administrator's son Heishiro Inukai and his two best friends, also known as the three stooges. One roadside battle, a near-fatal injury and a dead sidekick later, Heishiro is rescued by a pacifist samurai Hanbei Mizoguchi, and is nursed back to health by Hanbei's beautiful daughter. Kazamatsuri for some odd reason decides to chill at the local gambling den run by Lady Okatsu, Mari Natsuki in a scene stealing role. Throw in a few ninjas for good measure and you have way too many characters and not enough time. Or so you think.

In making this, Hiroyuki truly got the feel of the old-school samurai movies, from the movie back-lot-sets look, to the feel and pacing of the movie. He brings his slick modern MTV touch to it adding flashes of colour when dealing with death and fire. He also has an awesome soundtrack composed by Hotei Tomoyasu, a pop singer withon his off days. It is all woven together in a surprisingly uncomplicated plot that does leave us with a few lose ends. Mari Natsuki did a fantastic job as Lady Okatsu and dominated every scene that she was in. A tough uncompromising, manipulative character she really did give the others a run for their money and one would almost wist the movie was about her instead.

The vibe that you get from this movie is that a director took the script from 5 different movies genres put it in a jar, shook violently and poured the result onto celluloid. With great success I might add. What we get are like little vignettes of a road movie, a romantic comedy, period drama, and of course the rogue samurai. The movie plays around with the expected conventions of each archetype for instance Kazamatsuri is an accidental bad guy for the most part and erstwhile hero Heishiro can't do much more than get in the way and bleed from his nose everytime Hanbei's daughter flashes some skin. His attention to detail is also quite amazing, right down to the lack of blood on the swords anytime someone killed. I can see why Tarantino was inspired by this, it is great fun and a fantastic reminder of what good samurai movies consist of.

4 out of 5 for some offbeat, good fun and keeping me interested!

댓글 1개:

tomr :

Do they send you the films or do you download them? Your hard drive must be filled up by now... Have a nice day.