Wednesday, October 19, 2011
As much as things have been hard, I really liked today's movie, so much so that I think it might be tough to wrap this post up quickly. Today I watched Samurai Rebellion, directed by Masaki Kobayashi in 1967. It's title seems a little misleading, since it's more about Rebellion than Samurais, but Ebert says that it was deliberately misleading to try to draw in American audiences (in Japan it was translated to include something about wives, to draw in women viewers). It's really good, though - a really cool plot coupled with great visuals and a good message. I liked it!
The plot: "During peace in 1725, aging swordsman Isaburo is living a henpecked life when his clan lord requests that Isaburo's son marry the lord's mistress, with whom he's displeased, even though she's born him a son. Isaburo wants to refuse, but his son Yogoro accepts the woman, Ichi, and they fall deeply in love. Their love renews Isaburo, so when the clan lord's elder son dies and the lord sends for Ichi to return to his side as mother of his heir, Isaburo opposes his lord. Yogoro and Ichi, who now have a baby daughter, stand with him. The clan orders their suicide, then sends soldiers to kill them. Isaburo's only hope is to take his case to Edo to expose the clan's cruelty. Can he?" (thanks IMDB for the great summary!)
The plot is really great. I loved the story because it was sort of unlikely but worked really well. It was touching how Yogoro and Ichi fell in love, and it somehow benefited Isaburo as well, who was able to use it as an excuse to sort of escape his wife. I liked Ichi a lot, and I was happy that she was able to fall in love with Yogoro. I enjoyed that she didn't attack the lord for no reason, but because he displeased her and she didn't want him. I guess I like that she stood up for what she believed in (even when it went against tradition) and for some part of the movie, she was rewarded for that. It's cool that Yogoro and Isaburo are both inspired to break tradition because of Ichi, as well. Their loving relationship shows Isaburo that tradition might not always be right, and he stands up for Ichi when the lord tries to take her back. And this means a lot, in a society where things were peaceful and functioning because it required obedience to rules and lords.
It's got some cool fighting, but not really a lot. No, the film mostly focuses on the domestic realm, on this little family drama that happens. It's slower, more patient, and not really full of action. It's in beautiful black and white, the characters often in stark environments. It's all very intentional. I liked how the end fight scene looked as well, with the tall plants and grasses giving so much texture and movement. I was expecting a traditional samurai movie, but I was really delighted with what I got instead. It was cool to see something different that was great as well.
I just found the story really touching and powerful. I love that father and son banded together to stand up for what was right, to defend a woman that at first no one wanted. I'm not a big tradition or rules person, so I really liked their rebellion, how they moved from being, well, conformists, to individuals. Aren't we all sort of suckers for stories like that? This one is particularity good and different. It wasn't the easiest movie to watch when exhausted, but it was worth it. I'd buy this one, that's how much I liked it. :)
Have any thoughts on Samurai Rebellion? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Samurai Rebellion
Buy it on Amazon