In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.
Following World War II, a retired professor approaching his autumn years finds his quality of life drastically reduced in war-torn Tokyo. Denying despair, he pursues writing and celebrates his birthday with his adoring students.
When a powerful warlord in medieval Japan dies, a poor thief recruited to impersonate him finds difficulty living up to his role and clashes with the spirit of the warlord during turbulent times in the kingdom. Written by
Keith Loh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Two hundred specially trained horses were flown in from the US. Many of the riders were female members "of various equestrian organizations" whom Kurosawa described as being "more daring than most men." See more »
When Kagemusha is being ejected from the Takeda clan compound, he is seen with his left arm in a dark purple-colored cloth sling, which covers most of his hand and forearm. As the camera shot changes to a slightly longer shot, the sling is suddenly much narrower, exposing much more of his hand and forearm. See more »
Even with this resemblance, Nobukado, he is so wicked as to be sentenced to crucifixion. How could this scoundrel be my double?
I only stole a few coins. A petty thief. But you've killed hundreds and robbed whole domains. Who is wicked, you or I?
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This one is known by many to be a 'warm-up' to "Ran". Perhaps that should have been a warning, as I wasn't a huge fan of that film. But still, I remained interested in this one and it looked good. But lordy did I find this one a big, beautiful, empty bore. I mean, sure, the visuals are crazy good at times, lovely colors, and it is just in general a great looking movie. Excellent design and all. But at the same time I sort of feel that's all that was to it.
The performances here aren't nearly as stilted or obnoxious as some in "Ran", and in fact I really like Tatsuya Nakadai in this. The problem here is that I don't think anyone involved was given much interesting material to work with. It isn't that I don't think there is an interesting story to be told here, but I sort of see this movie as a missed opportunity. Instead of focusing more on developing the character of the impersonator, too much time is spent on scenes of rival sides scheming and questioning if Shingen is alive or dead. Things seem to only be addressed on the surface and the character interactions are never given enough time to breath. More importantly, this might not be as much of a problem if the film didn't move at such an excruciating pace. Some films are deliberately paced a certain way and some films are slow-burning, but this one just feels slow, period, and without much of a purpose most of the time.
Additionally, I often found that scenes and drama were laboriously set-up within the story, then those scenes slowly unfolded, and then there is little actual pay-off. Take for instance the section of the story where the one Clan leader decides to send a priest carrying medicine as a supposed "gift" to Shingen, but really they want to find out if Shingen is actually alive or not. This is thoroughly explained by the Clan leader. Then when the priest arrives, Shingen (or the impersonator) and his fellow leaders discuss how they KNOW what the other Clan leader is up to, and how they must hide it! Then when the scene actually HAPPENS there ends up being little to no tension and nothing actually comes of it. It's just completely frustrating to watch! Scenes go on forever and sometimes the film just feels dead. All of a sudden then we'll cut to a scene of rousing music as men on horse-back prepare for battle. It felt like it all had no real flow at all. Even the battle scenes were really disappointing -- the ones at night were very hard to follow.
I will admit that the movie can be a stunner at times. That ending is really something, but even then it feels like the film is shouting "LOOK HOW EPIC AND TRAGIC I AM!!!!" Sort of like "Ran", really. But in retrospect, this film makes me appreciate "Ran" even more, for where that movie sort of falls apart for me in its later stages, at least it had a little umpf to it. "Kagemusha" feels like it never actually gets off the ground. Kurosawa is a great filmmaker, but I can't get behind this one.
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