Thursday, August 28, 2008

Samurai I review

Adapted from the story by Eiji Yoshikawa, Samurai I chronicles the transformation of Takezo (Toshiro Mifune) from an idealistic teen to an insane outcast to the legendary model samurai, Musashi Miyamoto. Through this journey he engages in a bloody civil war, single-handedly fights off groups of bandits and faces persecution from his own village and relatives.

The Good?
The fight scenes, although not particularly breathtaking, do excel more than other jidai-geki films of the time. Even if the set-up isn’t as epic as the final scenes of Seven Samurai, you do see how cool Toshiro Mifune is facing off against 10 fighters. For those looking for something a bit more stylized than Kurosawa, but a bit more realistic than Zatoichi, Inagaki is a good compromise.

Toshiro Mifune gives one of his great eccentric wildman performances reminiscent of his characters in Rashomon or Seven Samurai. He handles the transformations fantastically as well.

The story is crafted with constant shifts and plot twists involving key female characters easily overturning our emotions and opinions. All the actresses mold perfectly to these drastic character changes and make it believable.

The film gains a clear focus in the final twenty minutes and really shows us how easy it is to get lost in the narrative and fall in love with the characters. The film plays with our emotions so much, it is easy to almost see this as a samurai soap opera.

The Bad?
Out of the three films in Inagaki’s trilogy, this is the only one that does not work structurally. The film is chronicled in several distinctive segments that don’t seamlessly flow together like a film should. The events in this third of the Miyamoto story would have been better off serialized (which it has been in other incarnations).


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