Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Samurai I Loved


Directed by Mitsuo Kurotsuchi

Mitsuo Kurotsuchi "The Samurai I Loved", an adaptation of one of the great Shuhei Fujisawa's stories, somehow escapes the shackles of its wild inconsistencies and readily apparent flaws and morphs into a beautiful and tremendously deep meditation on duty, love and regret.

After his father is forced to commit ritual suicide due to his involvement in a regional power struggle, young Bunshiro Maki must work to rebuild the fortunes of his disgraced household. Meanwhile, his childhood friend Fuko is made to join the court of the fief's Lord in Edo where she eventually becomes the Lord's concubine. Years later they meet again when Bunshiro must help save Fuko and her newborn child from another power struggle ripping through the fief.

Although it's sometimes awkward, often tries a little too hard to pull at the heartstrings, and is also cursed with terrible title, "The Samurai I Loved" somehow pulls through and delivers not just a satisfying overall experience but one with a truly unexpected emotional impact. The film's final act delivers a devastating wallop that, frankly, caught me completely by surprise, which did nothing but heighten the film's emotional punch. Indeed, Kurotsuchi's film lumbers along somewhat awkwardly throughout its running time, tallying up as many hits as misses and then provides us, seemingly out of nowhere, with an incredibly frank, beautiful scene where Bunshiro and Fuko come to grips with lives that hadn't turned out as they had hoped.

I’ve often said (likely to myself…) that one of the most interesting and powerful emotions that can be explored through film is regret or disappointment. Indeed, some of the most powerful scenes in film history deal not with love or death or joy but rather with disappointment. Just think of Setsuko Hara’s Noriko in “Tokyo Story” admitting that life is indeed “disappointing” or Benjamin Braddock’s smile fading away in the bus at the end of “The Graduate”. I think the poignancy of these scenes, much like the final moments of “The Samurai I Loved” is due to the fact that feelings of regret and disappointment are absolutely universal in a way that a traumatic death, rapturous joy or even unrequited love simply are not. There’s therefore a far better chance that viewers will connect specifically with the disappointments of a character than they will with a scenes of heartbreaking death, incredible joy, or boundless romance.

Beyond its denouement, “The Samurai I Loved” is also notable for its gorgeous cinematography and the work of Shomegero Ichikawa andYoshino Kimura as the adult versions of Bunshiro and Fuko (though the actors playing the teenaged roles aren’t bad either) whose restrained performances do much to add to the emotional impact of Mitsuo Kurotsuchi’s film.


Jack said...

Hé! Johnny, j'espère que ce voyage en Asie aura su te combler de nouvelles images et surtout que tu n'a pas eu à crier « toilette » à la première porte venue! Au plaisir d'une bonne bière pour que tu me racontes.


Murf said...

Sllightly...okay, completely off topic. Have you ever read the book "The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing"?

JDM said...

Never have. Sounds interesting just based on the title, though. I'll have to pick it up at the library.

Murf said...

I just read it was one of the best books on analyzing movies. I'm trying to find it but I may have to suck it up and buy it.