Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
Original title: Jôi-uchi: Hairyô tsuma shimatsu
Japan, 1967. Mifune Productions Co. Ltd., Toho Company. Screenplay by Shinobu Hashimoto, based on the novel by Yasuhiko Takiguchi. Cinematography by Kazuo Yamada. Produced by Toshirô Mifune, Tomoyuki Tanaka. Music by Toru Takemitsu. Production Design by Yoshiro Muraki. Film Editing by Hisashi Sagara.
Another rock-solid masterpiece by Masaki Kobayashi, who provides the breathtaking excitement of a great samurai film and goes one further by adding deep emotional resonance as well. Toshirô Mifune is excellent as a swordsman who is ordered by his feudal lord to take in the ruler’s mistress after he grows tired of her and trades her in for a younger woman. She is to married off to Mifune’s son, an idea they at first find distasteful, but eventually the couple discover a deep sympathy for each other and fall in love. When circumstances up top change and the overlord wants his mistress back, it begins a chain of events that see Mifune and company rising up against inhumane treatment that allows so many to suffer for the whims of so few. Exceptional direction, gorgeous photography and stunning performances provide a film that hits on so many levels, with a devastating conclusion (don’t kid yourselves, it’s a Japanese love story after all) that will be felt long after the film is over.
The Criterion Collection: #311