Hanpei is an orphan mistreated by other vassals of the manor. He loves flowers and is named the castle gardener. One day in the forest he meets a samurai who teaches him his technique. To ... See full summary »
The mother of a feudal lord's only heir is kidnapped away from her husband by the lord. The husband and his samurai father must decide whether to accept the unjust decision, or risk death to get her back.
Toranosuke Sugi, a brave and loyal Samurai, fights to practice and preserve his master's teachings amid a civil war. With friends on both side will he cave to temptation, or stand on principle and for freedom?
February 17 to March 3, 1860, inside Edo castle. A group of assassins wait by Sakurada Gate to kill the lord of the House of Ii, a powerful man in the Tokugawa government, which has ruled ... See full summary »
Ishikawa Goemon (Ichikawa Raizo), a talented young ninja, becomes ensnared in a twisted scheme to assassinate Oda Nobunaga, an evil warlord bent on ruling feudal Japan with an iron fist. ... See full summary »
Shiba, a wandering ronin, encounters a band of peasants who have kidnapped the daughter of their dictatorial magistrate, in hopes of coercing from him a reduction in taxes. Shiba takes up ... See full summary »
Loyal samurai Samanosuke is attacked, mutilated, and left for dead while carrying out a mission for his clan. He recovers but has lost an eye and an arm. Taking a new identity as Tange ... See full summary »
Kenji Misumi was a master director and Kiru alone is proof enough.
On paper, this may seem like another in a long line of Daiei star vehicles for their leading box office draw, Raizo Ichikawa. Misumi himself had already directed him in a few of those potboilers (the SATAN'S SWORD trilogy). I dunno if it should be ascribed to the zealousness of a young director eager to break free from the constraints of studio production-line film-making, if Misumi intended it as a calling card that would help him graduate into the A-list club that included Masaki Kobayashi and others, or if, concerns about status be damned, it should serve as exhibit A in the case many of us have been trying to make about Misumi as a righteous auteur with a directorial voice all his own separate from the bulk of genre filmmakers, but Kiru screams stylized masterpiece even from its opening prologue and it's obvious it was pieced together with great care and superior craftsmanship.
The slow deliberate pacing and eliptical minimalist storytelling one would sooner find in an art-house film than a chambara is broken by sudden bursts of violence, these emphasizing not bodycount and arterial sprays but beautiful choreography between camera and characters, with the killings often as not taking place off screen. In filtering his chambara dynamics through a meditative mood, in giving more weight on the preparation rather than the fight (with duels edited in a Leone fashion a few years before Leone, tight closeups of eyes and bodies et al), Kiru soars above anything else Daiei was producing at the time to occupy the same stylized moody genre space others like Jean Pierre Melville would arrive years later. The gloomy fatalism and visual grammar is all Misumi's though and it would continue to show up in his work in the coming years, although stunning shots like the circular overhead shot of Ichikawa opening doors in search of his boss would rarely be repeated.
Misumi may never get the critical acclaim and Criterions other of his peers who created in genre film-making like Yasuzo Masumura (also in Daiei), Masahiro Shinoda (in Shochiku) and Seijun Suzuki (in Nikkatsu) have enjoyed because he never got on board the Japanese New Wave wagon, but Kiru is proof enough that he was one of the master directors of his generation.
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