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Education of a great lawyer, 15 January 2011

This film is first-rate, very thoughtfully written and elegantly made. Very inspiring. Its strengths are many. There's no fluff, despite its being a valentine from these sisters to their dad. It manages to convey the complexity of their feelings and knowledge of him as a man and of the work he did. Remarkably, as busy as he obviously was, he truly loved these girls and his wife with all his heart. It charts his transformation from Long Island lawyer to national institution through the Civil Rights and antiwar movements and his later work as criminal attorney for the most reviled defendants around. The girls themselves had strong misgivings about these later cases, as did his wife, but he persisted, and in one important case was vindicated after his death. We don't see lawyers like this these days. America has become so pacified that Bush and Cheney can steal two elections and the people won't even get off the couch. Idealism has been replaced by cynical, money-grubbing materialism. This picture reminds us of what constitutes a life well lived.

Unique, beautiful un-Hollywood masterpiece, 14 January 2011

This film is a thrilling, stylized tale of courage, loyalty, and the human comedy. It's not necessary to reveal details of the plot other than to say it involves a band of loyal retainers escorting their master to safety after a coup, with a lot of quick-witted verbal ju-jitsu. It's every bit as satisfying on the third viewing as the first. The writing is both profound and funny. Among its many delights are the very Japanese, sing-song style of speech by Denjirô Ôkôchi as "Benkei," and the comic relief of Kenichi Enomoto, the porter. It's also an early version of the "Seven Samurai" conceit of the samurais and the buffoon who wins them over. Interestingly (for academic reasons), Kurosawa and Shintaro Katsu teamed up in 1970 to make "Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo." I haven't seen it yet but the Zatoichi films, while enjoyable, are nowhere near as artful or provocative as Yojimbo or anything by Kurosawa. With Zatoichi, see one, you've seen 'em all. I highly recommend this beautiful and satisfying masterpiece of serious filmmaking.