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If John Woo's Red Cliff was the pinnacle of historic action drama from Asia, this (Genji Monogatari Sennen no Nazo) qualifies as it's equal in Asian historic drama.
The movie has two tracks going simultaneously. One about the reality between Lady Murasaki (Miki Nakatani), and Michinaga (Noriyuki Higashiyama), and the other about the story of Genji Monogatari that has prince Hikaru Genji as its main character. The movie is interesting as a drama, but is also superbly written to highlight the underbelly of life that even people in privileged position goes through difficulties, and sadness.
In the story of Genji Monogatari, prince Hikaru Genji (Touma Ikuta) who's mother died at age of 3 falls in love with Lady Fujitsubo (Yoko Maki), who is a spitting image of his mother. But Lady Fujitsubo is a head mistress of his father who's the emperor of Japan. In his frustration, and because of his outstanding good looks, he goes on escapades with number of women.
The movie is based on a novel by screen writer Yukiko Takayama, which itself is based on a novel by Lady Murasaki (Murasaki Shikibu). The original novel which was written approximately 1000 years ago is known to be the oldest romantic novel in the world.
Although she comes from a family of notable scholars, what prompted Lady Murasaki to write this epic novel that would be over 2000 pages if published today has long been a source of speculation. In this movie, Takayama puts romance between Lady Murasaki, and Fujiwara no Michinaga (who was the prime minister of the day) as the trigger for Lady Murasaki to write the novel. The story is Takayama's interpretation of how the novel came into existence. In this movie, Lady Murasaki supposedly modeled Hikaru Genji after Michinaga.
The production of this movie is supremely beautiful, and the cast of characters is one of the best I've seen. The story is like a fantasy, but is equally believable as a historic drama. Musical score of this movie was equally beautiful.
One caveat is that the story is not easy to understand. Like Red Cliff is difficult to understand if one is not familiar with the story of "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", for those who are not familiar with the entire background surrounding Genji Monogatari, Lady Murasaki, and the historic background of Heian period, this movie is bit of a handful to absorb in one sitting.
This is the best movie I've seen made by Kadokawa Movies. It's certainly one of the best movie to come out of Asia in recent years, and is highly recommended for viewing.
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