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.
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During peace in 1725, aging swordsman Isaburo is living a henpecked life when his clan lord requests that Isaburo's son marry the lord's mistress, with whom he's displeased, even though she's born him a son. Isaburo wants to refuse, but his son Yogoro accepts the woman, Ichi, and they fall deeply in love. Their love renews Isaburo, so when the clan lord's elder son dies and the lord sends for Ichi to return to his side as mother of his heir, Isaburo opposes his lord. Yogoro and Ichi, who now have a baby daughter, stand with him. The clan orders their suicide, then sends soldiers to kill them. Isaburo's only hope is to take his case to Edo to expose the clan's cruelty. Can he? Written by
While Kobayashi's wonderful *Harakiri* (which is the only non-Kurosawa Japanese film I've ever given 10/10) is a flat-out condemnation of the "samurai code," *Samurai Rebellion* is not quite that.
In *Harakiri*, it's clear that the "code" is entirely on the side of the Iyi clan, even when it leads them to do incredibly cruel and appalling things.
Here, even those who obey the lord's orders sympathize personally with the Sasahara family, and it is made clear several times throughout the film that the lord is himself violating the "code," and that if the other daimyo and the Shogunate were to hear of it, it could lead to the destruction of the Aizu clan.
Also, we have more of a dilemma here. In *Harakiri*, Hanshiro Tsugumo's actions affect only himself, but the decisions made in *Samurai Rebellion* affect a whole family and several related families. Indeed, it could be said that the Sasahara men and Lady Ichi are behaving selfishly by gratifying their own desires at the expense of the family.
It could be said that this marks a greater maturity in Kobayashi's outlook. Although the lord is clearly in the wrong, Kobayashi offers up the arguments for obeying him anyway.
In *Harakiri*, there are no such complications.
However, I consider *Harakiri* a better film (though *Samurai Rebellion* is quite good). Partly, it's Nakadai's amazing performance in the earlier film, but also, there's something to be said for a straightforward condemnation. Nuance may be more mature--and in judging Tokugawa Japan, even more intellectually honest--but it doesn't have the impact of crying "J'Accuse!"
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