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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
Isaburo Sasahara is a former samurai warrior and master swordsman who now lives a quiet life as head of his family, he has been continually henpecked by his wife for all their married life, so its his ambition to have his eldest son Yogoro married to a woman who will respect him. Isaburo's plan is thrown into disarray however, when he receives a notification from the Lord of the Aizu clan, that he would like Yogoro to marry Lady Ichi, a mistress of his who has fallen out of favour. This in itself seems rather insulting to Isaburo, as Lady Ichi he learns has a reputation of being violent towards his lordship and added to that she has an illegitimate child by him. After much family discussion they all agree that to refuse his lordship's offer would mean certain ruin for the Sasahara family, so they agree. Much to their surprise Lady Ichi is a kind, affectionate, helpful and thoroughly pleasant woman. She regales them with tales of his lordships cruelty and adulteress behaviour, the family are pleased she has finally found happiness with Yogoro.
Yogoro and Ichi are blessed with a child, that helps Ichi forget she had to give up her first child, as it was second in line to his lordships domain. However after the heir dies, Yogoro now head of the family receives another request, that Ichi should return again, as her son is now heir and it wouldn't be fitting for the mother of an heir not to be with her child.This however is the final straw and Isaburo and Yogoro set out to defy their lord and fight for their rights.
Samurai Rebellion was Masaki Kobayashi's first foray into the field of independent films and he returned to a familiar theme (previously used in Harakiri,1962) of injustice perpetrated by a tyrannical authority figure. Kobayashi teamed up with legendary Toho studios and Mifune Productions to recreate the literary vision of Yasuhiko Takiguchi's "Hairyo tsuma shiatsu" in a script by Shinobu Hashimoto. The films original title literally translated as Rebellion: Receive the Wife was changed for western audiences at the request of Toho, as they didn't believe it sounded manly enough for a Western audience that were very keen on Samurai films. Despite its more familiar title, this is very much a family drama, that wonderfully builds up its characters and to label it as a Samurai or action film would be erroneous, the rebellion scenes occurring only as we near the finale. Kobayashi's also uses Japanese architecture and symmetry to further the mood, using pillars, castle walls, doors, protective eaves and endless straight lines to promote stability, when the Sasahara family are having a less than unified debate on their predicament, the members are all stationed at unusual differing distances from the camera making the harmonious composition appear unsymmetrical when a member leaves the room and also towards the end of the film Isaburo and Yogoro remove all elements of geometric stability from their home as they await the arrival of their feudal lords men, their act seemingly to once and for all end their association with their restraining dogmatic social structures.
The performances are all superb, Mifune giving us one of his more retrained performances with only glimpses of his more familiar gusto as he emotes and reflects on the tragedy of the situation his family is in. The great Tatsuya Nadakai is restricted to a few brief scenes, but his power still shines through. Yôko Tsukasa and Go Kato also produce memorable performances as the loving couple willing to die to retain their partnership. Samurai Rebellion is a powerful film that reflects its directors concerns with the abuse of authority, it exudes class and visual style and its attention to detail is second to none. As a film it can't be faulted.
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