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|Index||25 reviews in total|
The strengths of this movie are a simple story with wonderful
characters set to a background of beautiful scenery and costumes using
skillful cinematography. Unlike today's movies with emphasis on action,
special effects and fast cuts to move the story along, this movie
unfolds its drama at a leisurely pace and introduces us to the title
characters so we feel well acquainted with them.
Samurai I sets the foundation for the story. It introduces us to Musashi, Otsu, Matahachi and his mother, and Akemi and her mother. There is also a priest named Takuan who captures a youthful Musashi in order to break his wild, free spirit. Matahachi is Musashi's friend who is set to marry Otsu, but the civil war in Japan during that time separate them and put their plans on hold. What drives the first part of the trilogy are the characters, especially the rambunctious Musashi and what he does for his friend Matahachi and his mother. Musashi is an orphan and has grown tired of his existence as a farmer in Miyamoto village. He longs to become a great warrior by joining the civil war. What impressed me was the acting of Toshiro Mifune. He portrays a young and wild Musashi in Part I and the viewer is easily drawn to believe in his portrayal. In Mifune, we can see what the young Musashi is thinking and feeling about what is happening around him. Part I ends with Musashi professing his love for Otsu, but also leaving her in order to further his warrior training.
Samurai II is again driven by its characters, but this time the cinematography opens up to show us breathtaking scenery and backgrounds. The background and costumes of Japan during medieval times make for a very Zen-like and peaceful atmosphere despite the story is about fighting and developing the warrior's skills. The love story between Musashi and Otsu as well as Akemi continue. Mifune shows us Musashi getting more mature and developing as a swordsman. Musashi is torn between his love for the sword and for Otsu. We are also introduced to another important character in Part II, Kojiro Sasaki. Kojiro is an interesting character. He's seen as an actor by people who are familiar with him. He certainly has a flair for the dramatic, but is one who has ambitions to become a great swordsman in his own right. Kojiro seeks fame and fortune, but wants to do it his way. His tastes are different from the simpler Musashi, and each character is developed to portray them as very strong individuals.
Samurai III shows us the final battle at last between Musashi and Kojiro and is easily the most artistic of the trilogy. Both characters have grown to appreciate each other in their skills with the sword, and with it they have used the other to better themselves in their skills. Each are different individuals with different goals, but their motivations to become the best fencer in Japan are the same. Musashi was about to duel Kojiro to the death early in Part III, but decided at the last minute that there were things in life he still wanted to do. He returns to his roots -- the soil and does some farming again. The best part of Part III is the duel scene at Ganryu Island. The final scenes with Musashi and Otsu and the climactic battle between Musashi and Kojiro are shot beautifully. One can see the painful detail it must took to capture the right light and color for those scenes.
Early in his career, director Hiroshi Inagaki trained as a painter. In the Samurai Trilogy, one can appreciate his use of color and composition of the scenes, e.g. the bridge scenes in Samurai I, the opening title sequences in II or the final battle scene in III. The cinematography was wonderful in framing a shot to show the artistry of those scenes. One would have to have an understanding of color, hue and texture to get all the dramatic effects the scenes achieved.
I saw the Criterion version and can accept some of the change of light and fuzziness in the film because of the age, but I do have to complain about the darkness, especially in the fight scenes of Part II. The filtering of the shots made it almost incomprehensible to see the action on the screen. I was thinking why didn't they fight in the daytime, but then it wouldn't have been as authentic I suppose. However, the quality and artistry of the finale in Part III makes up for the digression in Part II.
The importance of the Miyamo Musashi saga has been lost somewhat today, even in Japan. These were not just early high-quality color samurai movies, not just great films-- they were a nationwide event, and a milestone in Japanese social evolution. The early 50s were a time of postwar healing, and there were unsettled questions about the national character. The Miyamo Musashi saga used the past to dramatize issues of morality-- and, even more important at the time, morale. Japan had no problem westernizing and living under the rule of law under terms imposed by victors in war-- the knotty issue was, how much of the past do we keep alive in our daily thoughts and actions, and just how much of the real Japan, the one we remember, will our children and grandchildren inherit, once the aftermath of global war has subsided? Watch these films with such then-important issues in mind, and your experience will be deepened and enriched. All three episodes are directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and star Toshiro Mifune as Miyamoto-san, in a performance that is perfection. Miyamoto Musashi shows the young samurai aspirant as a hot-headed, imperfect man, neither hero nor monster-- but possessed of a fierce dark force that could impel him toward either outcome. The question of women looms large in this trilogy-- how to treat them, what kind of woman to honor and what kind to avoid, and just how the diametrically-opposite traits of women work in the world, whether at odds or in harmony with those of men. All these issues are played out without preachiness, in the actions of real people, well-drawn characters whom we meet and get to know before the episode ends in a series of parting of ways. (continued on the page for Ichijoji no Ketto)
This title is really only the first part of a three-part story of the early
life of Musashi, the legendary Samurai. The three parts were released
separately and Criterion DVD has released them on three separate discs, each
disc about an hour and a half to two hours long. You can try to watch the
first disc alone, it stand by itself, but it ends just as Mushashi starts
out on his quest, and you'll miss Koji Tsuruta's serene and slightly creepy
role as Kojiru, Musashi's arch-enemy, which for me was the best part of
parts 2 and 3.
The DVDs feature not very well restored prints, maybe it was the best they could do, and there is no supplemental material.
The movie itself is a fun and lively retelling of the legend. Mifune is more wooden than usual, but this is a time when Japanese action films were taking their cues from westerns, and his Musashi grows from a wild spirit to the requisite strong, silent type. For a modern, charismatic, manga-style Musashi, try to get your hands on 2003's "Musashi" NHK miniseries.
Toshiro Mifune (of Akira Kurosawa fame) stars as Takezo. A young man
who seeks fame as a warrior. He and his friend Matahachi join to fight
in a civil war. When their "platoon" (for lack of a better term due to
my lack of Japanese warfare knowledge) is wiped out, the two young men
confide in the help of two women.
The two women rob the dead bodies of Samurai. When a group of bandits wants to cash in on their treasure, Takezo fights off and kills the bandits. When Oko (the mother of the two women) observes this, she falls for Takezo. When he refuses and runs off, she tells Akemi and Matahachi that Takezo forced himself, and she refused. So, Akemi, Oko, and Matahachi leave. Only for Takezo to return to an empty home.
Takezo tries to return to his home village to let Matahachi's fiancé and mother know that he is still alive. When he is accused of leaving Matahachi for dead he is pursued by the town in a manhunt. Otsu, Matahachi's fiancé, learns of Matahachi's marriage to Oko. She eventually falls for Takezo. During all this, Takezo is capturd by a Buddhist monk. Only part of the monk's larger scale plan of eventually moralizing and training Takezo. Thus, Takezo becomes the film title, Miyamoto Musashi.
An excellent and colorful film. Toshiro Mifune excels as Takezo. He proves that he is up to play any type of character. His character is somewhat similar to that of his character in Seven Samurai. Ambitious, but not as strong and mature as he should be for a samurai.
If you don't know too much about classic samurai cinema, this is a good place to start (this is part one in a trilogy of three films). With his short running time and color film, it may help you break into the other samurai classics that are in B&W (Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, Yojimbo/Sanjuro, etc.,).
As a note, this won of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1955.
"Miyamoto Musashi" (1955): by Hiroshi Inagaki, starring Torshiro Mifune. This is an EPIC story of one man who sets out to travel far and wide throughout the land and himself in search of his identity and purpose. It has something of the feel of Herman Hesse's book "Siddhartha", but with Samurai battle scenes (no, it is NOT a silly martial arts film). Having won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film of 1955, this is 97 minutes of serious life dramas, with the priorities being Japanese, of course. One must think that with less than a decade having passed since Japan's defeat in WWII, this film's considerations (set in the 16th century) - about identity, goals, love, war, status, and true purpose - were nearly unavoidable. Beautiful photography, good color (considering the era), music that occasionally over-swelled the scene, believable sets, and again, a serious story line, make this one worth seeing. This will sound odd, but I found lots of parallels to the early Marlon Brando film, "The Wild One'". Feel free to disagree.
This movie doesn't take much brainpower, but is a fine tale about two
friends who leave their village in a quest for glory. Its set in feudal
age Japan and the scenery is beautiful! Mountains, green pastures,
lakes, forests with bamboo undergrowth and the cities and villages in
typical style serves as the backdrop.
Takezo (Mifune) is the strong and wild character all the woman likes, but he cant handle the attention very well so he keeps running. All the characters as well as the story is not hard to get, so this is one to bring in the kids on.
Will defo check the rest of the series out, maybe the books as well.
Toshiro Mifune stars as a foolish young man who longs to run off to war
to make his fortune and prove he is a man. When a battle looms, he runs
off to volunteer and his friend, showing some initial reluctance,
follows. Instead of glory, they barely escape with their lives. Their
paths leads them to two women--an incredibly evil sociopathic mother
and her daughter who is not yet as jaded and selfish as the mother.
Mifune resists temptation and runs from them, while his friend succumbs
to their pleas to stay--and in essence throws away his life and honor.
Where Mifune's path takes him I'll leave for you to discover when you
watch the film.
Despite having Mifune in the lead, this is NOT an Akira Kurasawa film and some may be disappointed that it is a little more stodgy than one of his films. Instead, I just see it as different but certainly worthwhile. The movie does have tremendous scope and is a very effective opening film to the Samurai Trilogy.
It is important to note that these movies were made nearly 50 years ago and existing copies on DVD are in poor condition--with fading and sepia tones instead of the vibrant original. This became VERY apparent when I saw the beginning of the 3rd film. The color was nearly perfect for the initial scene and that is great, as it's a beautiful and extremely artistic shot. At times throughout the movie, some of the scenes are once again vivid while others are faded and lose their impact. You can't blame the film for that, but you wish Criterion would try to digitally enhance the prints they've got to improve the colors and get rid of some scratchy cels.
I watched the first part of the Musashi Miyamoto trilogy, dubbed simply
Samurai 1 on the video, thinking that it might be a lot more stylish
&/or violent than I was led to believe. It is the first part, but of
the second part it is but only up to a point. This is a 1950s style
epic tale through and through, and the violence is done in a kind of
sweepingly done style, where it goes by fairly quick, no blood at all,
though all the while there's the sense of loss that goes with seeing,
for example, the big battle sequence early on. This is a trilogy that I
saw long ago, but this one, along with some scenes from 2 and 3, sticks
out in my mind to this day. There's a lot of touching care taken in
what was Hiroshi Inagaki's power as a filmmaker. Like a Hollywood
director actually more than a typical Japanese director, one might say,
his take on the legendary samurai Miyamoto is one of reverence but
wisdom, of production values of the highest standard (of the studio
standard of Toho at the time), with brilliant color photography putting
the colors in striking displays throughout at a time when Japan was
first getting into it.
If it's less than really great, like a Kurosawa film, it's maybe because Inagaki is a little too comfortable at times with what's 'safe' in the story, particularly with the romance between Takezo/Musashi (Toshiro Mifune) and Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa). This actually becomes a little more unbelievable at times in parts 2 and 3, but for the sake of its magisterial, dedicated studio roots, it's not that bad, most notably the final scene at the bridge. Some of the plot on the first viewing may not be completely clear, at least through parts of the middle section involving the betrayals and Takezo's friend Matahachi's relationship with Oko. There are one or two really noteworthy supporting performances, like from Mitsuko Mito as Oko. But it's really Mifune's show here, and he plays Takezo in this film like a more naive but still as ambitious and unruly version of his character in Seven Samurai. He's not altogether, but he has it in him to be more, which of course then leads out into the rest of the trilogy. It's one of his better performances outside of his work with Kurosawa, and it gets better as the films go on.
Of course, it's best to start here with Inagaki's passionate, rousing work, and even if it isn't the best of the three it still has its high points. It's a very good example of an 'old-school', big-budget Toho picture with their brand of excitement and romance. If you're thinking it will be as graphic or darkly comic as Kurosawa's films though, it's not really here (though only in little sparks, as is more Inagaki's straghtforward style).
The Samurai Trilogy is a very good work, very well worth watching. No, they
aren't as great as Kurosawa's samurai masterpieces, The Seven Samurai,
Yojimbo, or Sanjuro, but they are no much less worthy. My only major
complaint is that they were filmed in color, which is a lot less good
looking and elegant than the black and white of the Kurosawa films. In some
scenes, especially those at night, it is very difficult to determine which
character is which.
The Samurai Trilogy excels in several aspects. First and foremost, Toshiro Mifune may be the single best actor who ever lived. Sure, he was typecast, but he was great in his roles. There is a huge difference in his acting jobs in these films and Rashomon or The Seven Samurai or Yojimbo and Sanjuro. His character here is very complex. The second reason to watch is for the great secondary characters. They are all quite complex. There will be characters you'll love and long for, and other characters whom you will hope will be killed by Toshiro. These secondary characters are extraordinarily complex at times. Third, watch it for the novelistic unfoldings of the story. Well, it should be novelistic, since all three films were based on a single novel. Don't worry about the three movies repeating in any way. Also, it is a good idea to watch all three in a row (I watched the first two tonight, and plan to watch the third one tomorrow night; hey, it's late!). The story is constantly developing, and you don't want to forget anything. I give each segment of the samurai trilogy a solid 8/10 (unless the third installment is particularly great or awful; i will most likely post a comment for that film by itself).
The first of a trilogy that really should be viewed as a whole. This
film tells of the very humble beginnings of Miyamoto Mushashi, who has
become a paragon of Bushido and Giri. A Samurai's Samurai.
However, you have no inkling of this at the beginning of the movie. What we see is dirt and squalor and a desperate chance to get out from beneath the mud. It all goes wrong and things look desperate.
As the movie progresses in the slow, methodical, often obtuse, Japanese fashion we become engrossed in the plot and the lives of our protagonists. Toshiro Mifune shows a vast range of emotion, power and character growth in these this movie. To get the full flavour of the story you must also watch the next two movies in this trilogy (2) "Duel at Ichijoji Temple"(1955) (USA)and (3) "Duel on Ganryu Island" (1956)(USA.
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