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Existential comedy/drama with excellent music and design
A film that will probably befuddle a lot of non-Japanese viewers especially since it really has no compelling plot, the main characters are under-explained and the movie doesn't really have a dramatic rhythm to make the climax seem very important. But, that said there are a lot of wonderful aspects to this film if you are willing to go for it.
A trio of characters in Edo intersect during a time of puritanical social reform. A ner-do-well, Naojiro, wants to become an actor and get his face in prints (this was the Japanese version of the supermarket tabloids in olden times) and he wants to marry a geisha but his overbearing mother disapproves. A man who abandoned his wife and child returns to discover tragedy has befallen his small family. A "buraikan" plots to overthrow the despotic lord who is imposing the strict social reforms.
A distinctive style permeates the entire film. The image composition is excellent with wonderful color design. The strong soundtrack is a quirky but enjoyable mix of Henry Mancini style jazz, traditional Japanese music and some odd musical styling. The acting is strong and does a lot to carry the film for those of us baffled by some of the goings on. While the film is named for the "buraikan" (played by Tetsuro Tamba), it seems the the center of attention is really Naojiro, played by Tatsuya Nakadai. No problem, he's an interesting enough character.
Recommended for those who want something different.
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