Following the journey of a caterpillar along the Japanese islands from Nagasaki to Hokkaido, this allegorical and oblique first feature film by Kuroki depicts in exquisite images a series of encounters and life's turning points.
Hitman Narumi is asked to rescue a kidnapped businessman who is involved in an air defense project. Narumi nearly succeeds but a stray shot kills the hostage. Nevertheless the person who hired Narumi now has another mission for him.
Story of the last three days in the life of Sakamoto Ryoma (1836-1867), imperial loyalist who tried to unite the Choshu and Satsuma clans and prepared the way for the Meiji Restoration (1868). A samurai film in an ironic almost burlesque style, but not without affection for its hero. Written by
What to make of this unusual 1974 biopic of legendary Japanese historical figure Ryoma Sakamoto, directed by New Wave filmmaker Kazuo Kuroki? They certainly don't make them like they used to (unless they're on lots of drugs). The main question to arise from watching this, however, is: how can something be so "out there" and yet so boring?
Ryoma Sakamoto was a social activist and imperial loyalist who thought that he could bring down the bakufu government and the Shogunate by uniting the warring Choshu and Satsuma clans. Obviously, things didn't work out well for him because he was assassinated, along with his companion Shintaro Nakaoka, in a Kyoto inn. That's the historical basis for the film, and I advise you to read up on the subject before watching because otherwise the film will seem like complete gibberish to you. Even if you have background knowledge, the movie will still confuse you because of its lack of any background, its similar characters, and a total bumf*ck of a narrative and pacing.
Ryoma is portrayed both as a bumbling goof and an authoritarian madman, though that's not saying much because every other male character behaves exactly the same, except for one. Tongue-in-cheek jokes and ironic intertitles poking fun at the samurai class are plentiful, so you can also call this a morbid artsy comedy if you want to. There are also many sex/nudity scenes to satisfy the pinku quota, not to mention lots of unintelligible yelling all around, making this one of the most hysteria-stricken films I've seen.
Most of the time though, there's no reason to care for anything that's going on and the movie is quite uneventful, sometimes really boring. A few interesting scenes here and there, combined with trippy music and an unique but hard-to-pin-down atmosphere are the film's strongest points, along with the cinematography. The grainy, rough and moody hard chiaro-scuro visuals combined with the non- existent budget do leave an impression. It's like somebody is making a samurai movie in their backyard, but skillfully so (as far as technique and form go). I don't know.
EDIT/UPDATE: It seems to me now that this movie is better than I gave it credit for, but I'll have to re-watch it to be sure. I probably underrated it when writing this review, so I gave it a slightly higher mark for now.
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