Jōi-uchi: Hairyō tsuma shimatsu | 上意討ち 拝領 始末 | Samurai Rebellion [1967]

5/10 | 14.May.12
Jōi-uchi: Hairyō tsuma shimatsu | 上意討ち 拝領 始末 | Samurai Rebellion

DIRECTOR: Masaki Kobayashi | WRITERS: Shinobu Hashimoto, Yasuhiko Takiguchi | CAST: Toshirô Mifune, Yôko Tsukasa, Gô Katô, Tatsuyoshi Ehara, Etsuko Ichihara, Isao Yamagata, Tatsuya Nakadai, Michiko Otsuka | Japan

The basic plot outline of Samurai Rebellion could make for a fascinating study of familial and social bonds, of the various forms marriage can take, of loyalty, of the assertion of personal integrity and dignity against those who assert control over the individual, of all sorts of things. It’s a pity Masaki Kobayashi didn’t make that film. What we have instead is a sloppily directed sequence of scenes in which characters ask and answer the same questions with no variation or evolution over and over again climaxing in several sword fights that are so badly edited that it looks like we’re watching rejected outtakes. (In one swordfight you can see the actors hesitating at a couple of points as if waiting for Kobayashi to shout “And…action!”) The acting is passable, with Yôko Tsukasa looking at least twice the age of the character she’s playing; only Michiko Otsuka shines in this company as an ill-tempered, manipulative, social-climbing bitch. The movie’s emphasis on the transformative power of TRUE LOVE strikes me as a bizarre gumdrops and lollipops Western import, and the ending is hokey schmaltz, but that sentimentality was in keeping with that lerv thang. I give it some bonus credit for the very occasional interesting visual composition, the basic plot, and Michiko Otsuka’s performance. Roger Ebert loves the movie and of course it’s in IMDb’s Top 250.

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