A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, August 11, 2018

The Samurai Trilogy (Hiroshi Inagaki, 1954, 1955, 1956)

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
Toshiro Mifune in Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple
Kaoru Yachigusa in Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple
Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island
Toshiro Mifune and Koji Tsuruta in Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island
Musashi Miyamoto: Toshiro Mifune
Otsu: Kaoru Yachigusa
Kojiro Sasaki: Koji Tsuruta
Matahachi: Rentaro Mikuni
Takuan Osho: Kuroemon Onoe
Akemi: Mariko Okada
Oko: Mitsuko Mito
Osugi: Eiko Miyoshi
Sado Nakaoka: Takashi Shimura
Sasuke: Minoru Chiaki
Nikkan: Kokuten Kodo
Koetsu Hinami: Ko Mihashi
Toji Gion: Daisuke Kato
Shishido: Eijiro Tono

Director: Hiroshi Inagaki
Screenplay: Hiroshi Inagaki, Tokuhei Wakao
Based on a play by Hideji Hojo and a novel by Eiji Yoshikawa
Cinematography: Jun Yasumoto (I,II), Kazuo Yamada (III)
Art direction: Makoto Sono (I)
Production design: Kisaku Ito (II,III)
Film editing: Eiji Ooi (I,II), Koichi Iwashita (III)
Music: Ikuma Dan

Toshiro Mifune achieves a kind of gravitas that he never displays in the movies by Akira Kurosawa in which he played a samurai. That's because Hiroshi Inagaki's trilogy is a kind of cinematic Bildungsroman: the education of Musashi Miyamoto, a historic figure who served as a kind of bridge between the swordsmanship tradition of the Japanese warrior and the meditative tradition rooted in Zen Buddhism. It's a strongly planned trilogy where it comes to Miyamoto's development, and Mifune provides a solid center. But I found myself distracted by the Hollywoodizing of the story, especially the subplot involving Otsu, the woman who loves Miyamoto so much that she devotes her life to seeking him out. The argument goes that this romantic subplot represents one of the trials that Miyamoto must undergo before he can achieve the kind of wisdom that his spiritual mentors wish for him, but Otsu's doggedness struck me as heavy-handed and sentimental. Still, it's a fascinating and often spectacular trio of films, beautifully climaxing in the battle between Miyamoto and Kojiro Sasaki as the sun sets over the sea on whose verge they are dueling.

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