There's a rare sense of epic artistry in this unusual and striking medieval saga, directed by Keisuke Kinoshita as more of an aesthetic experience than a conventional drama. The film was designed to resemble a decorative 16th century Japanese scroll, painting spare brushstrokes of vivid color across each panoramic, wide-screen black and white image. It can be difficult (and not really worth the effort) to follow the endless progression of characters, and the manner in which the film unfolds is often more involving than the story it presents. Each leap forward in time approximates the turning of another page, usually to the next in a series of pointless, bloody battles between feudal warlords, with each conflict properly labeled beforehand, identifying the date, location, and principals involved. The battle scenes serve as punctuation, following successive generations of peasant soldiers to their doom, with the repetition suggesting that war is the only eternal aspect of the human condition, and passive resistance is futile.
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