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In 1185, the Heike family fights against the Minamoto family. After a bloody naval battle in the Pacific Ocean, Yoshitsune Minamoto defeats the enemy and the survivals commit suicide. When the triumphant Yoshitsune arrives in Kyoto, his brother, the Shogun Yoritomo, is lured and orders his men to arrest Yoshitsune. However, Yoshitsune escapes with six loyal samurais led by Benkei and they head to the country of his only friend Idehira Fukiwara. Nearby the border, after crossing the forest disguised as monks, their smiley conveyor Suruga discloses that they are Yoshitsune and the six samurais and advises that the fearful Kagiwara and his soldiers are waiting for them in the border to arrest them. Yoshitsune disguises as a carrier and Benkei has to convince Kagiwara that they are six monks traveling to collect donation to build a large temple in Kyoto. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This is a very intelligent movie, telling the story of two men who ride the tiger's tail out of loyalty and grace. The courage of one of them is explicitly portrayed in the film. It is the samurai Benkei who cleverly defends his lord at a very high personal risk. Benkei improvises an eloquent speech reading out of a blank scroll the prospectus for the temple when required to do so by the commander of the military outpost seeking to capture his master. Benkei uses logic to convince his comrades that it is not a good idea to fight the soldiers of the barrier. The samurai may kill all the soldiers this time but that will result in more soldiers and more persecution later on. Benkei uses a clever trick, to flog his master who is posing as a porter when the second-in-command suspects that the porter is the master they are trying to capture. Since a servant would never beat his master, the porter cannot be the master, reasons the top commander.
But more impressive than Benkei is the street-wise guy, the real porter played by Kenichi Enomoto, who joins the party of samurai in the forest. He treads on two tigers' tails. The first tiger is represented by the party of samurai. He is rejected by them, he is called a nobody, he is treated harshly, he is even threatened with death. He disappears at times but he returns to help the samurai who walk in the forest pretending to be itinerant priests. He collects information valuable to them and shares that information. And the second tiger is the military outpost who will surely kill him if they discover that the master is among the party of fake itinerant priests.
While Benkei does his heroic deeds in a ceremonial manner framed by rituals and high tension, the loquacious porter does his heroic deeds in a discreet, even awkward manner, without fanfare or rituals. His heroism is so discreet that even seasoned Kurosawa critics missed the point of the movie: natural, humble heroism offered not out of loyalty, but out of grace.
(The master of the party of samurai is such an obscure figure that out of respect to Kurosawa I have not even mentioned his name in my review)
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