Still Life, Samurai-Style
by Ender’s Girl
Kimura Takuya, Dan Rei, Bando Mitsugoro, Sasano Takashi, Kobayashi Nenji, Momoi Kaori, Ogata Ken
Co-written and directed by Yamada Yoji / Shochiku Eiga, 2006
In a Nutshell:
Samurai Mimura Shinnojo and his wife Kayo find their comfortable life in disarray after a taste-testing session gone awry leaves Mimura blind — and unemployed. But as the two face an uncertain future in Tokugawa Japan, their relationship takes a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse.
(SpoilLert: Everything major! Proceed at your own risk!!!)
Hmmm… Well… <how do I say this?> I think I came into this movie expecting two hours of unabated swordplay and bloodshed. What I didn’t expect was a domestic drama with just 9 minutes of kendo training and one short duel near the end. I told my best friend about it and she replied (having also seen the film), “That’s exactly what Yamada Yoji is known for in Japan, his movies (Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade) are very slice of life. He doesn’t glamorize the samurai but shows them as real, ordinary folk.”
Maybe I’m still not a sophisticated enough viewer (and jidaegeki connoisseur) to appreciate the deglamorized, quieter side of the warrior class in feudal Japan. Maybe I’ll always be THAT kind of viewer, the one that pops a chanbara movie into their DVD player and beats their chest, bellowing, “I want my savagery and gore! I want my katana blades gleaming crimson with blood! I want my epic duels to the death! I want my spewed guts and decapitated corpses littering the wayside! For love, for daimyo, for courage, for honor!” Hahaha. Believe me, if I had wanted to see a bunch of samurai sitting around all day and talking about the weather or how many kokus of rice they were getting that year, I would have watched a frikkin’ History Channel documentary instead, durrr.
Oh, all right, whatever, so maybe being a samurai isn’t ALL about killing people, lol. *roll eyes* Fine, I get that now, this film is supposed to depict the mundanity of life, even for this elite military caste. (And besides, if I had gotten my way, the producers would’ve had to change the movie’s title from Love and Honor, to Blood and Horror, heh heh.) But — oh, what a dull and senseless existence, to live and die by your liege lord’s leave. Still, you have to appreciate the stateliness and formality with which these samurai would conduct their affairs. There’s an austere beauty to this ancient culture that is even mirrored in the clean lines (and eco-friendly building materials, heh) of their abodes. But their feudal tradition is a two-edged sword, and as an observer of that time you do not fail to notice how a lot of it is just empty (though very elaborate) ritual, dictated by a social order so crushingly confining.