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Araki Mataemon: Kettô kagiya no tsuji (1952)

Mataemon Araki, a renowned swordsman, helps a young man find vengeance.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
Yuriko Hamada
Akihiko Katayama
Minoru Chiaki
Daisuke Katô
Shin Tokudaiji
Kokuten Kôdô
Bokuzen Hidari
Toranosuke Ogawa
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Mataemon Araki, a renowned swordsman, helps a young man find vengeance.

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3 January 1952 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Vendetta of a Samurai  »

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1.37 : 1
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Kurosawa de-glamorizes a legendary Japanese tale
16 August 2015 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

The review contains a very mild spoiler.

The Igagoe Vendetta is a famous incident from Japanese 19th century history that has been retold many times in plays (and presumably movies.) Apparently, the tale has grown with each retelling. Araki Mataemon (aka Vendetta of a Samurai, as it is called in Hulu) is an attempt to tell a realistic version of the story. Although it was directed by Kazuo Mori (best known in America for directing many of the Zaitochi movies) an argument could be made for calling this a Kurosawa movie. He wrote the screenplay, it features 4 actors from The Seven Samurai and it is clearly influenced by Rashomon, which was made two years earlier.

The movie gets off to an unpromising start with a histrionic version of the fight. It is filmed in the manner of a much older movie.The film speed is sped up, Toshiro Mifune is egregiously over acting as he mows down warrior after warrior, despite the fact that his sword never comes close to touching anyone. However, this opening scene is a superb fake out. After it is over, the narrator announces that this is how everyone imagines the incident, but that the reality was very different.The movie then commences to tell a very realistic story of the events that led to the incident, as well as the motivations and personalities of the participants.

The result is a very stately, and maybe in a couple places static, movie about the conflicts between duty, revenge, friendship and fear. The movie seems a little slow at first, but the pacing ends up paying off as the suspense builds near the end of the movie. Mori's direction lacks Kurosawa's dynamism, but he makes up for it with nice set ups and interesting asides. I was also impressed with Mifune's acting. Often when he was working for directors other than Kurosawa he could turn into a horrible ham, but here his acting was remarkably restrained, while still dominating every scene he was in.

Overall, I'd say this was a must see for all fans of Kurosawa and Japanese films.


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