|Index||10 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Love and Honor is the concluding chapter to director Yoji Yamada's
loose samurai trilogy. Personally, I have enjoyed the other two,
Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade, because they are extremely well
made, and have important stories to tell, rather than focusing its
energies onto huge action sets with plenty of sword wielding, and Love
and Honor is no different.
Shinnojo Mimura (Takuya Kimura) is a lowly Japanese samurai, who's employed by his clan as a food taster. It's a dead end job with zero job satisfaction, and Shinnojo reveals in a conversation with his wife Kayo (Rei Dan) that he dreams of opening up a kendo dojo of his own, and recruiting students to teach regardless of their caste. It's a noble dream, but one that is cut short when he gets blinded during one of the food tasting sessions, eating sashimi made from fish which is poisonous when out of season.
Like its title suggests, Love and Honor is an intense love story based on those two themes. With Shinnojo handicapped, fears are abound within the family that without a job, they will lose their status and material wealth. And Shinnojo's growing negative attitude toward life doesn't help either. Stress befalls Kayo, and on the ill advice of her aunt, she seeks to find a powerful samurai Shimada (Mitsugoro Bando) to help them out of their plight.
No man enjoys his wife having to bring home the bacon on his behalf, especially not when it involves favours with another man who's vastly superior, not in feudal Japan. It's an interesting character study into the 3 characters, of love, defending of honor, envy, jealousy. And it all comes to an end in what I thought was a very touching finale. As mentioned, don't anticipate any sword fighting action to be a huge spectacle. Rather, the one here seemed to be rather rooted with realism. When it boiled down to the sword, every slash, parry, thrust seemed made with measurable consideration, with forceful purpose. Given Shinnojo's blindness, don't expect Zaitochi styled super-samurai feats, and in fact, Shinnojo's struggles are more to do with things from within.
Takuya Kimura, whom I last seen in 2046, has aged for this role. He looked mature and pretty much left his pretty boy days quite far behind to bring certain gravitas to his character. Rei Dan in a debut is on par with the recognizable female leads in the previous trilogy movies, and is excellent too in her role as like the other female characters, and a memorable one too. And not all's bleak in the movie, with Takashi Sasano's servant character Tokuhei bringing about some light hearted moments with his earnestness and wit.
Samurai movies have been possibly enriched by Yoji Yamada's trilogy contribution, and Love and Honor triumphs slightly over its predecessors to bring the series into a fitting close. Recommended!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Do we need to know everything? Would our lives be better if there were certain things we didn't know? These are matters addressed in this story of a samurai family and life in feudal Japan. It was the duty of certain lower level samurai to taste the food before serving it to the lord of the clan in case it might be poisoned. When Shinnojo Mimura, one of the food tasters, eats some tainted sashimi of an off-season shellfish, he falls ill. After a period of unconsciousness, he awakes to find that he is unable to see. At first, he tries to hide the fact from his deeply loyal wife, Kayo, for fear of worrying her. When she understands that, she protests that she is his wife and it is her duty to worry for her husband. However, when she learns from the doctor, who has withheld the truth from his patient, that this blindness is permanent, she also avoids telling her husband, in order to spare his feelings. There are certain truths that are better for us not to confront. Gossip, however, is another matter. When Mimura's busybody aunt comes with news that Kayo has been seen in the company of another man, he throws the aunt out of the house, but he is left with doubts. Is such a thing true about his loving wife? Mimura decides it is something he must know, regardless of consequences, so he sends his servant to follow her and report back to him. The rest of the film deals with what must be done in order to restore honor. It is a fascinating look at life, duty and honor during the samurai era and well worth watching. Takuya Kimura (Mimura), Rei Dan (Kayo) and Takashi Sasano, the loyal but sometimes confounded servant, all give memorable performances.
Yoji Yamada's appropriately dubbed 'Love and Honor' is a samurai's story of just that; Takuya Kimura is Mimura, a samurai who is used to test food for poisoning by eating it in order to prevent the lord of his clan from being poisoned. Mimura becomes blind after being fed an off-season food that can become poisonous if not prepared properly. Unable to provide for himself, Mimura becomes suicidal. His loving wife Kayo declares her support for him, offering to follow him into death. Mimura is convinced to continue on living, but with Mimura unable to provide for he and his family, his wife is left to find a way to support them. In this classic tale of love and honor, follow a blind man's struggles to find peace of mind as he tries to follow his samurai code.
A low-ranking samurai, jaded with his dull daily routine, finds himself
tested to the core when his food-tasting assignment leaves him blind.
Yoji Yamada's project exploring samurai in transition expands, having had an outing in Twilight Samurai. That movie had Hiroyuki Sanada in the starring role, and the constantly under-achieving Takuya Kimura was always going to be a hard sell in this role for some. However, he stands up competently here. Shinnojo wakens blind and immediately becomes suicidal. He is granted a healthy stipend of rice from the authorities, and the slow dawning of its true price inexorably works on Shinnojo, eventually becoming too much to bear. This delicately paced transition is plotted by Kimura's expressions, from self-loathing to acceptance to vengeful warrior, with loving husband always present.
Kaori Momoi parades her usual quirky genius, but Rei Dan as loving, loyal wife Kayo is the stand-out performance here. Kayo's burden proves equal to her husband's, and Dan earns our sympathy as the compromised spouse.
The film doesn't quite achieve the delicacy and pathos of Twilight Samurai, but it does add another dimension to the humanistic portrayal of the samurai that is Yamada's trope. For that reason alone, Love and Honour is worth checking out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When YAMADA Yoji set out to make his "samurai trilogy", he was very
clear in his mind what he wanted to do. "Twilight samurai" (2002) and
"The hidden blade" (2004) both offer an image of samurais unlike what
we are used to proud, cool, fierce. It's not that these qualities are
not found in Yamada's samurais, but such qualities are overshadowed by
the consciousness of a demeaning class system and a very human concern
for daily livelihood, mundane but necessary. "Love and honour" carries
on with the same theme, but with a slight variation in key, so to
The protagonist in L&H is a young samurai (played by pop and TV superstar KIMURA Yakuya, whose name I'll use here for convenience) of reasonably respected rank. Losing his father when he was quite young, he was fortunate enough to receive a good education. At the beginning of the story, therefore, he is not a victim of the predicaments of poverty or class prejudice we saw in the previous two of the trilogy. While not spectacular, life is stable and comfortable for Kimura and his beautiful wife, served by a loyal old servant that is not unlike "Alfred" ("Batman begins"), but of a comical kind.
The "day in the office" for a samurai is dull when there is no war, as is the case during our story, and what excitement there is comes with a special duty for some of the samurais food testing for their feudal lord, as a security procedure against poison. The story really begins at the occurrence of a rare incident, when Kimura is blinded by poison that has accidentally found its way into the food he is testing.
Here's when we are back to the convergence of the common theme. All of a sudden, Kimura feels like he is plunging into a dark abyss (both literally and figuratively), with thoughts that had never ever occurred to him before, such as whether he now has to make his livelihood as a beggar, all these despite the fact that he has a most loving and devoted wife. This becomes quite ironic when the wife, desperate for the mercy of the feudal lord in recognizing Kimura's service and keeping him on the payroll despite the fact that he is now blind, yields to the sexual advancement of the samurai superintend in exchange for the latter's promise to put in a good word for her husband. To cut a long story short, things come to a head with Kimura's discovery of his wife's well intended but ill advised action, culminating in a climactic duel with the villain.
This is quite a simple story but the movie excels in its telling. There is the characteristic attention to details in Japanese, and furthermore in Yamads's movies. The reaction of this young (perhaps even a little spoilt) samurai to the devastating calamity is well depicted. But the otherwise gloomy narration is brightened, and lightened, at suitable point by humour (some of which sarcastic), provided chiefly by the faithful old servant and a nosy aunt who pops up from time to time. But the important thing is that the movie does not lose sight of the main theme. It is after learning the generosity of the feudal lord in granting status quo despite his disability that Kimura finds back his sense of humour. He is now able to laugh at himself for banging his head against a pole, quipping "I think he really wants to kill me", with reference to an earlier joke he made with the old servant.
Nor are dialogue and facial expression the only elements of excellence in this movie. Check out the comical scene of the nosy aunt's hurried exit with her two kids after Kimura had indicated in no uncertain terms that she had out-stayed her welcome. The body movement of the characters in question is more eloquent than the most hilarious dialogue. Watch also, at the scene when Kimura seeks instruction from his teacher, how, with constantly shifting and balancing movements with his toes and the balls of his feet, he is ready to pounce in a split-second upon the imagined opponent when he senses (remember that he cannot see) an opening. Just two of the ample proofs that every scene in this movie has been afforded the utmost attention by director Yamada.
I love the Zatoichi films and have seen all but the very latest
rebooting of the series ("Zatoichi the Last"--which is not available
yet in the US). So it's obvious that I am a fan of the movies. However,
I will also be the first to admit that they are completely ridiculous.
After all, a completely blind swordsman who is able to take on dozens
of opponents in each film and win is completely impossible...at least
on this planet! Because of this, it's great to see "Love and Honor"--a
Japanese film with a blind swordsman that is actually believable!!
The film begins with Shinnojo Mimura working for his lord as a food taster. One day, the unthinkable happens and Shinnojo is poisoned. While this ends up saving his master's life, it also ends up nearly killing Shinnojo and leaving him blind! And, as sometimes occurs in the tough feudal society, Shinnojo is left without a purpose and the prospect of losing his income. Some thanks for service to his master, huh?! However, uncharacteristic of many samurai films, soon Shinnojo learns that his master has not forgotten him and will keep giving him his original salary. So how does this end up resulting in Shinnojo fighting someone even though he's blind?! Well, I don't want to ruin the story--just watch this one.
The film has many, many strengths. It is a wonderful story, has a very thrilling conclusion and a touching love story--albeit an odd one! Well performed all around and one of the better samurai films I have seen--and I have seen quite a few. Well worth your time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Viewed on DVD. Subtitles = eight (8) stars; sets/decoration = eight (8) stars; "score" = six (6) stars; costumes = four (4) stars. Director Youji Yamada's uninspired slice-of-life Shomin Geki (home drama) involving a castle-commuting samurai rendered blind from tasting poisoned food before it is served to the feudal lord (of, presumably, Osaka-Jo castle). The plot line of this tale offers a fascinating possibility which is toyed with, but discarded by the Director (to wit, the emergence of a skilled and renounced swordsman who uses sound rather than vision to vanquish his adversaries). Instead, Yamada provides a well-telegraphed (fully-expected), romantic happy ending (and a circular story). Acting is fine with overly melodramatic tendencies kept in check by Yamada. Costumes are bland, but sets and the decoration thereof are excellent. Film score is intermittent aside from the opening and closing credits; it consists essentially of one beautiful and haunting Leif Motif. Surround sound field is excellent, but sparsely utilized. Cinematography (semi-wide screen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), color), lighting, and editing are very good. Another Shochiku Studio middling programmer. WILLIAM FLANIGAN, PhD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is the third of Yoji Yamada's samurai films, each a retelling
of famed Japanese author Shohei Fujisawa's short stories. This time
around we are given a title character (Shinnojo Miura) who is married
but unhappy with his life. For one, he takes no satisfaction in his job
as a food taster and wishes to open up a sword school for children.
However, his dreams never come to fruition due to a sudden illness that
leaves Shinnojo blind for life. The story thus follows his tribulations
as he comes to terms with his condition and how it changes his
relationship with others.
For a samurai story this film has very little fighting. It takes place during the Edo Period which was a time of relative peace where samurai were mostly incorporated in to society as bureaucrats and public officials. This follows along the lines of the other two films by the same director (Twilight Samurai and Hidden Blade). Unfortunately, this third entry does not measure up in terms of story and acting. The main actor, Takuya Kimura is a passable actor but he lacks the defining qualities that convincingly show the subdued emotion and stoic mannerisms of a troubled samurai. Moreover, the climactic payoff at the end falls short because it is very predictable. If given the choice to see a samurai film go with Hidden Blade first, then Twilight Samurai, and finally this one.
Others have commented on the story so I will skip the synopsis.
The story is about human drama, and the unusual talent the main character has that leads to bombastic climax. This is typical Shuhei Fujisawa's style, and this story is no exception.
What took away from the story compared to other Shuhei Fujisawa based movie is the poor acting by Takuya Kimura. His impatient and jittery personality shows in his acting, and the poor ways he speaks the dialog all takes away from the proper mood of the story. As the member of SMAP - a Japanese idol group, his acting DNA was bread for more modern situation, and probably isn't a good match for a period drama like this one. I couldn't get the feeling that this was a samurai living several hundred years ago. His poor dialog skill also was evident in more recent movie Uchuu Senkan Yamato as well. Another period piece starring his SMAP colleague Shingo Katori's "Zatoichi The Final" was also a flop, attesting to the mismatch of SMAP member with samurai movies.
So the main focus was weak, but the movie still has quality all its own. The sword fight scene was superb like other Fujisawa novel based movies. As a samurai movie, this is still one of the best in recent years, and is recommended along with other Shuhei Fujisawa movies such as Hisshiken Torizashi, and Hana no Ato.
So this is suppose to be Yôji Yamada's final movie in this style of
samurai trilogy, the previous two films being "The Twilight Samurai"
and "The Hidden Blade". And this final installment is absorbing as the
previous films to some degree but also lacks the entertainment value
like the previous films as well. Although this trilogy is sort of dry
in some aspects. This however has slightly more of a modern feel to it
compared to the previous 2 films in this trilogy. But it's still a bit
slow paced and dry at times, this trilogy isn't for everyone but it
does have it's target audiences. The protagonist is played by Kimura
Takuya which I was hesitant with, but he played his role pretty well.
The progression of the story could have been paced a little quicker,
but I can understand why it takes the slower route. But still the slow
pacing really makes this movie dry and sort of dull at times. This
movie is also very far from being action packed despite it having
samurais, but what it does have is drama and emotions. And wanting to
know what happens next kept me attached to this story, despite the
pacing being so slow at times. If the pacing was slightly quicker the
movie would have been better in my opinion and would keep majority of
the audiences attention, so the main flaw in my opinion is the pacing.
Overall it's a pretty good final in this trilogy although the story has
nothing to do with each other besides the fact that it all revolves
around samurais, it's worth at least a watch.
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