Two years ago, Cinecultist caught Yoji Yamada's 2002 film Twillight Samurai and went nutso for it, even going so far as to say it was in the top ten for the year. So it was with great anticipation that we attended a screening of his most recent film, The Hidden Blade last Friday and again we're in love. Complex characters, intriguing cultural context, familial duty, unrequited romance and stunning photography always gets CC a swooning. This movie has all of that, plus some judiciously doled out kick ass samurai fighting. Can you really go wrong with that combination?
Like Twillight Samurai, The Hidden Blade follows a down and out samurai whose formerly prosperous family has become threadbare following his father's hara-kiri, mother's death and his sister's marriage. To make matters worse, Munezo Katagiri (Masatoshi Nagase) also secretly pines for the family's former maid Kie (Takako Matsu). When it comes to light that her husband's family isn't treating her well, Katagiri swoops in to the rescue, despite the obvious impropriety. Meanwhile, Katagiri's school days friend, Yaichiro Hazama (Yukiyoshi Ozawa) has become embroiled in a plot on the Shogun and the clan has brought him home to the provinces to imprison him. That is until the dangerous criminal escapes. Katagiri and Hazama trained under the same sword teacher and only Katagiri can match Hazama's prodigious skill. What will this noble samurai do in the face of these two scandals?
In our review of Twillight, we noted the Jane Austen-esque plot flourishes and again in this film that comparison is apt. Convention and societal structures constrain these characters in their positions more than ever a mighty battle could. When the drama exists internally, in the complications we create in our own minds, it is at its most compelling. Though we will say, the scene where the title finally comes to make sense is also pretty awesome. We don't want to give anything away which would detract from the kick ass-ness of it, but needless to say, it's swift and a little shocking, just as real life violence can be.
This movie is finally getting the US DVD treatment in August, so really we urge you to either try to catch it at Cinema Village now in NYC or add it to the Netflix queue. You won't be disappointed. After all, Cinecultist only gives our heart to the most worthy and The Hidden Blade is surely one of them.Posted by karen at June 28, 2006 5:32 PM