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The story of Norbu, a horse thief, who is thrown out of his tribe in an effort to purge it of evil. Norbu repents after the birth of his son, but he is forced to steal again after the birth... See full summary »
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The life of Go master Wu Qingyan who came to Japan from China in the 1930's (?) to train at a Go academy. The narrative spans the time from those early beginnings, through the invasion of China by Japan, Japan's defeat to the US, the difficult post-war years, and ending with Wu suffering an accident that terminated his career playing in Go competitions. If those tumultuous times were not enough, Wu had to cope with a pernicious case of TB.
You don't need to know the rules of Go, but even to a neophyte player, the moves and board positions depicted throughout look real. Contrast this to the brain-dead depiction of chess playing you see in many movies. Credit goes to a Dan-5 (Go player's rating) consultant.
Whether you understand the game or not, you marvel first at the utter simplicity of the empty board, the curved black and white stones, the satisfying sound they make when smacked into position, and then at the complex patterns of black and white covering the board during the end game. To that aesthetic add the great decorum and unhurried ceremony of the games between grandmasters. It fits perfectly with the narrative, acting, and camera work: formal and beautiful.
An element of the story escaped me at first: the nature of Wu's faith. I must have missed something early in the film, but near the end it is made clear that the religious sect he belongs to is Jiko.
The film is dedicated to master Wu and his wife (Kasuko?). The opening scene is shot in Odawara (?) in 2004, presumably showing the real Wu.
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