Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

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Goyokin 1969/ Toho/ Dir. Hideo Gosha

For reasons of my own, I was watching some heist movies. I like a good heist flick, and there aren’t enough of them. There are lots of heist flicks, but only a few good ones. I had gone through the usual line-up of movies, and after I had exhausted my supply I still felt the need to go once more into the heist film vault. So what I did was examine what you need for a good heist movie. That led me to this Japanese samurai movie set in the 1800s. As opposed to a French samurai movie set in the 1460s I guess? Well, some samurai movies are set during the 1600s, that seems to be the two times we generally get. During the early days of the Tokugawa shogunate or just before the Meiji Restoration, which is the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. Soooo, during the Tokugawa shogunate. You know what? Forget this part! I’ve already said shogunate way too many times.

Why do I call this a heist movie and not a samurai movie?
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Ninja Bugeicho Momochi Sandayu (1980 Toei Company, Dir. Norifumi Suzuki)

You know, sometimes you can’t help but think that you’re watching porn even when you aren’t. That’s how I choose to start this review, because it’s the impression that at the forefront of my mind. It’s the music mostly, and the modern outfits. I mean it’s a movie that takes place in the 15th century and includes ninjas in clothes that look strikingly like modern camo. The music is so absurd that it hurts the movie, which is pretty absurd on its own. The music is early 80s rock-ish sort of J-Pop, and it make you fee like you’re watching a porn. I’m hardly in a position to bitch about rock music in a classic setting. I normally like that sort of thing. It worked in Ladyhawk and it worked in Legend so some degree. It can work, but it doesn’t work here. That’s hardly the movie’s only problem, I seem to remember lots of other problems, but the music always sticks in my head and I’m getting the intro written before we evens start the movie proper because I’m going to review this one in a way I haven’t reviewed in a while. Yeah, this movie is so screwy I’ve got to break down the plot and explain certain scenes in detail. We haven’t done this in a while, so put on your favorite Technicolor gi and let’s get ready to rumble!

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Incident at Blood Pass (1970/Toho/Dir. Hiroshi Inagaki)

Hey look, another Sanjuro movie that doesn’t actually have Sanjuro in it. Okay, I’ll make the history lesson quick to explain that statement. First things first though, this movie is actually titled “Ambush” and was changed to “Incident at Blood Pass” somewhere along the line. Now back to the history lesson that you don’t really care about. After Yojimbo, Toshirō Mifune spent more than a few years playing more or less that character in several movies. It wasn’t so much that he was being Sanjuro, as much as he had made that a stock style of character. A stock style that still exists to this day, and is portrayed by many an actor. This would basically be like Sean Connery playing a well dressed, suave spy after he ended his run on James Bond. So yeah, it’s a samurai movie where Mifune plays a strong, mysterious tough guy type.
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Azumi (2003 Dir. Ryûhei Kitamura)

This one is by special request. Actually, Syd suggested it more than requested it, but it sounded better to say it was a request. You might want to make yourself a Samurai Girl before we start though, as a cocktail sometimes helps the movie gown down a little more easily. This is a movie based on a manga, which I’ve never read and thus have no idea if it matches the source material or not. I’m not finding a lot of information, so we’ll go the route of ignoring the comic book for the moment. I only bring it up because this is clearly a manga-ish movie. It’s also a sort of uneven movie in several respects. I’m going to say it at the start, so I won’t feel compelled to say it every time it comes up. Aya Ueto can act, but she’s not the best actor you’ve ever seen. What she can’t do is sword fight. It’s clear she was picked because she was cute and she was clearly a rising star at the time. She’s not exactly bad in this, but it’s pretty clear the character of Azumi is supposed to be a badass with the sword and it doesn’t come off properly here. Anyway, shall we begin? I should state here and now that my copy comes from England that I bought it about a year or two before there was a Region 1 disc and has it burned in subtitles. If you see subs in the screen caps, that’s just because of my troubles getting the shot I wanted. If you buy anything but the Optimum Asia disc from the UK, you probably won’t have burned in subs. If you need a drink with your film, try a Samurai Girl, which is actually pretty delicious.

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Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972 Toho Dir. Kenji Misumi)

How about an above the fold summary of the review? A decent actioner, which influenced the Invincible Hero movies of the 80s. While it’s got good action and story, it is heavily marred by misogyny and violence towards women.

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Movie Review: Kikujiro

Posted: March 26, 2010 in Movie Review, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

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Kikujirō no Natsu (1999 Office Kitano Dir. Takeshi Kitano)

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What is it?
That’s the first thing to address here. There are two kinds of movies that get lumped into the Samurai category in the West. Jidaigeki is a period piece. Normally set between 1600 and 1870 or so. These tend to be a bit slower, a bit more drama than fighting, but because samurai are such a big part of Japan’s history, you’ll find a lot of them are about those guys. Chambara on the other hand is your actual sword-fighting movie, an action piece that is named after the onomatopoeia of swords clashing. Either way, what you have is stories of men with swords, honor and the conflicts that come with maintaining both of those in a cruel and wicked world. It’s a huge tent, much like the Western is in America and as such, contains numerous sub-genres. Short version, one is fun to watch and the other is fun to talk about. However, just recognizing the difference between these two will put you head and shoulders above fully 50% of the other people you’ll be talking to.
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