Posted tagged ‘jidaigeki’

Film Review: 13 Assassins (2010)

October 19, 2011

My ‘ssassin Boys

by Ender’s Girl

(Sorry for the lame-o title-o, but a pun on the hit 2001 K-romcom My Sassy Girl was the best I could come up with – though I know not everyone can relate. My apologies.)

The Cast:
Yakusho Koji, Yamada Takayuki, Iseya Yusuke, Matsukata Hiroki, Inagaki Goro, Ihara Tsuyoshi, Sawamura Ikki, Furuta Arata, Takaoka Sousuke, Rokkaku Seiji, Matsumoto Koshiro, Namioka Kazuki, Kondo Koen, Ishigaki Yuma, Kubota Masataka, Ichimura Masachika

Directed by Miike Takashi / Toho & Sedic International, 2010

In a Nutshell:
A crack team of 13 samurai battles the odds – and an army of 200 elite guardsmen – in a suicide mission to dispatch an evil lord in late-Edo Japan.

(SpoilLert: Don’t worry, not saying who dies – or lives – in the end!)

“A good fort needs a gap. The enemy must be lured in so we can attack them. If we only defend, we lose the war.”

– Shimada Kambei in Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)

With 13 Assassins, master provoc-auteur Miike Takashi takes on a revitalized genre that, in recent years, has become the playground of veteran filmmakers like Yamada Yoji who favor quieter, deconstructed re-imaginings of samurai slumming it in the relatively bloodless years of the Pax Tokugawa.

In sharp contrast to Miike’s 2010 period opus (and, uh, 183,034th career feature to date lol), Yamada Yoji jidaigeki (Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade) are leisurely explorations of the minutiae of Japanese feudal society – samurai pass their time running office errands, dabbling in a trade, or perhaps, on more exciting days, refereeing (or figuring in) a domestic spat or two. In this era of peace, nobody has time to whinge about not having any civil wars to fight, or foreign armies to repel, or rival daimyo to vanquish (the daily grind of life is a battle in itself). And instead of traditional heroes and villains, Yamada Yoji protagonists are but regular blokes, and the antagonists usually snooty in-laws or petty, opportunistic bureaucrats.

Now enter Miike Takashi’s World, where: “If it ain’t about the killin’, then it ain’t worth filmin’!!!” His samurai and aristos are just. too. cool to trouble themselves with such mind-numbing mundanities; they loaf through the hated peacetime torpor with a bad case of the blahs, willing themselves back to the good ol’ pre-shogunate g(l)ory days of barbarism and bloodshed, when everyone and everything went by the credo “Fight-o ergo sum.” Robbed of their self-validating license to do violence, they longingly finger their idle swords while dreaming of honor and sacrifice, and nursing death wishes of an epic scale to match their own aspirations to immortality.

Goro Gone Bad, after the jump! Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!


Film Review: Bushi no Ichibun / Love and Honor (2006)

November 9, 2009

Still Life, Samurai-Style

by Ender’s Girl

The Cast:
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.

Click to read MOAR!!! MOAR!!!