Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Samuari Movie Weekend - Samurai II: Duel at Ichimonji Temple

My family is out of town for a few weeks so I have been watching some samurai movies. Last weekend was Samurai I and Kagemusha. This weekend I finished the Samurai trilogy about Miyamoto Musashi, Samurai II and Samurai III as well as the great Kurosawa film Ran. I will write about Samurai II here.

Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (Zoku Miyamoto Musashi: Ichijōji no kettō - 続宮本武蔵一乗寺決闘)

Although the title would make it seem that this is an action film, it is more then that. Yes, there are many incredible duels, especially between Musashi and the chain-and-sickle master at the beginning is one of the more violent scenes in the trilogy, but also shows the two-sword fighting technique that Musashi mastered. Also, the attempted ambush by 80 followers of Seijiro Yoshioka is amazing.

But the movie mainly deals with Musashi's quests for spiritual enlightenment. Samurai II deals with Musashi's progress from mere warrior to samurai as well as the failures of his fellow samurai as shown by the dishonorable acts of the followers of the Yoshioka school. Throughout the movie, Musashi moves to a more thoughtful and gentler use of his sword while his samurai rivals deteriorate into undisciplined thugs and the Yoshioka school is transformed into rabble. Musashi learns from his challenges and combat while his rivals are destroyed by those same challenges. One can see Musashi's continuing transformation most vividly when he finally faces the leader of the Yoshioka. Musashi overwhelms his opponent but when the moment comes when Musashi is prepared to finish him off, he stops realizing that killing him would be wrong. Musashi leaves his defeated opponent alive.

Musashi can only reach his problems of spirit through the gauntlet of threats. He is a pilgrim in search of answers to his questions. Since this is the second installment of the trilogy, it is missing any major resolutions. But the film compensates with fierce battle scenes and incredible dueling sequences.

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