DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

SAMURAI REBELLION (JOI-UCHI) (director: Masaki Kobayashi; screenwriters: from the novel by Yasuhiko Takiguchi/Shinobu Hashimoto; cinematographer: Kazuo Yamada; editor: Hisashi Sagara; music: Tru Takemitsu; cast: Toshiro Mifune (Isaburo Sasahara), Yoko Tsukasa (Ichi Sasahara),  Gô Katô (Yogoro Sasahara), Tatsuyoshi Ehara (Bunzo Sasahara), Etsuko Ichihara (Kiku), Isao Yamagata (Shobei Tsuchiya), Tatsuya Nakadai (Tatewaki Asano), Shigeru Koyama (Geki Takahashi, the steward), Michiko Otsuka (Suga Sasahara), Tatsuo Matsumura (Lord Masakata Matsudaira); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Toshir Mifune/Tomoyuki TanakaCriterion Collection; 1967-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

"A heart-felt action film that is eloquent and haunting in its reflections on the abuse of powers by the ruling class."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Masaki Kobayashi ("Kwaidan"/"A Soldier's Prayers") does a great job in directing this classic humanistic samurai film. It's based on the novel by Yasuhiko Takiguchi and is written by Shinobu Hashimoto.

In feudal times, at a time of peace, in 18th century Japan,
among the daimyo (feudal warlords), Isaburo Sasahara (Toshiro Mifune) is a swordsman vassal locked into a loveless marriage for the last 20 years to the nagging upper-class Suga (Michiko Otsuka). Someone he married to advance his social position and as a result has become in charge of training the Lord's soldiers through pointless exercises attacking straw men. He is living an unfulfilled life in marriage and career. The couple have two boys, his favorite eldest son is Yogoro
(
Gô Katô ) and his younger son is his mother's favorite, Bunzo (Tatsuyoshi Ehara). The teenager Ichi (Yoko Tsukasa), the forced mistress to the 50-year-old Lord Matsudaira (Tatsuo Matsumura), gives birth to a son, heir to his title. When she resents being with someone she doesn't love and he stays with another lady friend, out of self-respect she attacks the woman and the Lord. The Lord orders her out of the castle and to marry Yogoro. After they wed, when the reluctant Yogoro finally agrees to in order to save the family from harm, they surprisingly fall in love. But when the heir dies two years later, the Lord orders Ichi to return as his mistress to try for another heir. He also orders her to leave her 2-year-old daughter behind. Despite Suga and Bunzo being in agreement with this unjust order, Isaburo and Yogoro oppose it. It also calls for them to commit suicide. The result is a sword duel between the Lord's soldiers and the rebels, and that finally leads to a climactic sword duel at the border to Edo between Isaburo and his good friend, the gatekeeper, Asano (Tatsuya Nakadai), who insists on doing his duty despite the injustice of the order.

Starkly shot in black and white, it's a heart-felt action film that is eloquent and haunting in its reflections on the abuse of powers by the ruling class.

9/21/2016       GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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