Ansatsu | 暗殺 | Assassination
DIRECTOR: Masahiro Shinoda | WRITERS: Nobuo Yamada | CAST: Tetsurô Tanba, Eiji Okada, Eitarô Ozawa, Isao Kimura, Muga Takewaki, Shima Iwashita | Japan
20 APRIL: Assassination is my second Masahiro Shinoda film and all I can say is wow. It’s only on my second viewing that I was really able to watch the film instead of trying — and failing — to follow the plot and keep track of who the characters are and why they’re doing what they’re doing (and I still feel as though I don’t quite get it), but this is clearly the work of a master director. A great, great film that I’m going to have to watch a third and fourth time. 8/10.
21 APRIL: Assassination is about the civil war between “Emperor worshippers” and the followers of the Shogun about whether to open Japan to foreigners (the Shogun) or keep them out (the Emperor). The main character is a former Emperor worshipper ronen who’s hired by the Shogun’s people to lead an army of ronen to Kyoto to defeat the Emperor worshippers; since the Shogun doesn’t know — we don’t know — this guy’s true motivations in accepting the job, he gets someone to investigate and possibly assassinate him. Shinoda’s directing is breathtaking. Things to like: the sword fight scenes, the chase scenes that look like they’re in slow motion but aren’t, the extreme closeup/freeze frames on violent moments, an extraordinary feel for pictorial composition particularly in the use of widescreen but also in depth, Tetsurô Tanba as the main character Hachiro Kiyokawa. But it’s still hard to follow even after repeated viewings! Joan Mellen’s essay for the Masters of Cinema series is excellent and well worth reading.