Saturday, November 07, 2009
Aging samurai Isaburo (Toshiro Mifune) challenges the ruling warlord in Masaki Kobayashi's compelling tale of a peaceful man who's pushed too far. When a mistress displeases the lord, he demands that Isaburo's son marry the woman. Isaburo takes the girl in, and to everyone's surprise, she falls in love with her intended husband. But when the temperamental lord reverses his orders and demands his mistress's return, Isaburo bravely takes a stand.
The above is a very good description of this 1967 black and white film starring the great Toshiro Mifune. The original Japanese name for the film is Joi-uchi: Hairyo tsuma shimatsu which translates as Rebellion: Dealing with the Bestowed Wife. This is the last of the films I have watched from the Rebel Samurai collection from The Criterion Collection. The others being, Kill (Kiru), Samurai Spy, and Sword of the Beast. What an incredible collection. With Samurai Rebellion, the cinematography was incredible including tilted camera angles as well as beautiful Zen-like raked gravel gardens of Isaburo's home. But what really impressed me with this film was the relative originality of the story. The loyal samurai vassal that rebels against his lord in order to protect the happiness of his son and his son's young wife. The movie is a scathing portrayal of the feudal clan society in Edo period Tokugawa Japan and of the treatment of women in society at that time.
As a samurai movie, this one is grouped with those such as Seppuku (Harakiri) and Sanjuro versus chanbara movies such as Lone Wolf and Cub. It is a movie with a deep and emotional story with a very sad ending. There is very little fighting and the ultimate action scenes take place at the end of the film. The sword fighting was good, not as good as THE BEST EVER fight scene from Seppuku (Harakiri), but still impressive. Director Masaki Kobayashi, who also was responsible for one of the greatest movies of all time in Seppuku, really should be considered in the same company with the great director Akira Kurosawa. Although I would not put this movie at the level of Yojimbo or some other of Mifune's films, this movie is very, very good in my opinion.