April 30, 2007

Japanese Movie - Love And Honor

In Association with YesAsia.comAfter watching Love and Honor (Bushi no Ichibun), the final instalment of Yoji Yamada's samurai trilogy, I could not help but be extremely impressed with Yoji Yamada's attention to detail and his ability to create highly realistic depictions of life in Japan's samurai era.

Yet although the setting was realistic, while watching the movie, I could not help but feel that even if the whole movie (excluding the samurai fighting) was transported to a modern setting, the dialogue and storyline would not be out of place at all. This feeling was especially strong in some scenes early in the movie when samurai Shinnojo Mimura (played by Japanese pop idol Takuya Kimura) was teasing his wife Kayo (Rei Dan) and his elderly servant Tokuhei (played by Takashi Sasano) or when Shinnojo was complaining of his dead-end job to his wife. At such moments, Shinnojo could very well be a modern day newly-wed Japanese salaryman feeling very dissatisfied with his dead end job at a major corporation...

Takuya Kimura played the role of Shinnojo much better than I expected. He was particularly impressive in depicting Shinnojo's change in character and inner struggles after becoming blind. But I have to say that somehow I felt the role of Shinnojo was just too similar to the types of roles that Kimura has played numerous times before in TV doramas - that of the rebellious and playful young man who meets with a cruel twist of fate but somehow overcomes his insurmountable difficulties with sheer willpower and becomes a wise adult at the end. So much so that Shinnojo could just be Kimutaku in Long Vacation or Love Generation but with a much more cruel twist of fate - Shinnojo looses his eyesight whereas the others just had difficulties in their careers and relationship troubles.

Rei Dan was also impressive in her role as the Shinnojo's stoic wife Kayo. Besides somehow maintaing a quiet dignity even under the most difficult circumstances, I felt that she exuded a certain purity and luminosity that is quite rare in actresses today. (In fact, she actually reminded me of Tanaka Yuko, the actress who played Oshin...)

In the end, Yoji Yamada's attention to detail made all the difference between an excellent film and a so-so film. Minor details like the state of Shinnojo's house was not forgotten - at the beginning of the film when Shinnojo had a happy family, the house was bright and squeaky clean. At the end when Shinnojo was struggling with blindness and marital troubles, the house became dingy and old. A true reflection of our hero's inner struggles :-P

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