Tange Tenzen and Nakayama Yasubei are honorable samurai living in an era of corrupt officials and treacherous clans. But after finding themselves in opposing clans and ensnared in a love ...
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Impersonating an Imperial Army officer by wearing a "red lion's mane", a poor servant returns to his village after 10 years of absence to end the village's suffering caused by corrupt ... See full summary »
Tange Tenzen and Nakayama Yasubei are honorable samurai living in an era of corrupt officials and treacherous clans. But after finding themselves in opposing clans and ensnared in a love triangle, only bloodshed can ensue! An epic tale of slashing swords, cutting betrayal, and bloody revenge, Samurai Vendetta is justly hailed as one of the best samurai films ever made! Written by
A Good Example of a Chambara ("sword fighting") Film
The main story of the film is told in flashback by Horibe Yasubei, one of the real-life 47 Ronin, who took part in a famous true story of revenge for the sake of honor that took place in 1701. He recounts the events in his life that led up to him and the others of the 47 Ronin marching through a snowstorm on their way to attack Lord Kira, whose behavior brought about the death of their Lord.
The popularity of the 47 Ronin story in Japanese culture is comparable to the popularity of the Gunfight at the OK Corral in American culture.
The two heroes of Samurai Vendetta (Hakuo-ki) are the aforementioned Yasubei and Tange Tenzen, a fictional character. The film begins with a real event (a duel against several opponents) from Yasubei's life, in which he first comes to the notice of the fictional Tenzen. Their paths subsequently cross several times, leading to incidents in which they each become indebted to the other for saving each other's lives.
Although the story is overly melodramatic in places, leading to a couple of bouts of unintended laughter from the audience I saw it with, it is very moving overall.
One scene especially deserves some explanation. The Shogun at the time, Tsunayoshi, was known as the "Dog Shogun" because of edicts by him that dogs were not to be harmed in any way; someone who harmed a dog would be punished by being beaten, or killed if that person killed a dog. In one scene, a pack of feral dogs attacks a woman, and is saved by one of the heroes, who kills one of the dogs. The other hero helps the dog-killer escape. Although the dog attack is not staged very well, the scene is inter-cut with brief scenes showing people who have harmed dogs being beaten, and people who have killed dogs being beheaded, to illustrate the reason killing a dog is so significant.
Adding to the visual pleasure of the film is the expressive use of color, such as a vivid sunset, reminiscent of the sunset in Gone With the Wind, when Scarlett makes her "I won't go hungry again" speech.
I saw this movie at the Japan Society in New York City, Dec. 11, 2009.
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