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A Film By Hiroyuki Nakano: Samurai Fiction
A Film By Hiroyuki Nakano Samurai Fiction
Actors: Morio Kazama, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Tomoyasu Hotei, Tamaki Ogawa, Mari Natsuki
Genres: Indie & Art House, Anime & Manga, Animation
UR     2003     1hr 51min

Heishiro, a noble Samurai, sets out in search of the renegade who stole his clan?s treasure and killed his best friend. Heishiro should be able to hold his own against the villain Rannosuke, who has only killed hundreds of...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Morio Kazama, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Tomoyasu Hotei, Tamaki Ogawa, Mari Natsuki
Genres: Indie & Art House, Anime & Manga, Animation
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Anime & Manga, Animation
Studio: Tokyo Shock
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 09/30/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 51min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

An Okashii Samurai Epic (Cool, Funky, Peace)
Austin M. Kramer | Beijing, PRC | 01/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The MTV adds in Asia sold this movie as 'Cool, Funky, Peace' which pretty much sums up what makes this movie remarkable.Samurai movies are a dime a dozen, and the quality of these films varies widely. Everyone likes films for different reasons, so there is probably a perfect Samurai film for every different kind of person. This would have to be the perfect one for me.Some people like 'cult classic' movies, and try to find the cheesiest, worst-made or gorriest films. The Samurai genre is ripe with these, but I am not of this school, so for a long time I had a bad impression of the genre.In fact, I am of the exact oposite type: I look for haunting visual beauty, artistic vision, and deeply philosophical conception, and if possible - some rock & roll. As such, my loyalties in Japanese film lie with Kurosawa and Kobayashi, and it is in these film makers that I see the roots of Samurai Fiction.Akira Kurosawa, in films like The Hidden Fortress and Yojimbo, produced very subtle films mocking the macho ethos of Samurai culture, and ultimately moving towards the essential message that violence and conflicts are not solutions, but in fact just greater problems. When it comes to humanism and wit, Samurai Fiction, with it's anti-Samurai non-violent message, is the intellectual heir to Kurosawa. It is also, at least to me, much more accessible. Kurosawa's humor was very, very, very subtle and philosophical, and although I can appreciate it, it seems very dry and formal.Samurai Fiction, on the other hand, is unusualy straightforward for a Japanese film, which adds to it's hip, young feel. It also embodies the Japanese notion of 'Okashii' which sort of translates as 'silliness' but it might as well just mean fun, or light-hearted, or funny. The sincerity of this kind of humor contrasts vividly with much of the bitter cynicism that has saturated comedey these days that one can't help but like it.Masaki Kobayashi, on the other hand, who directed "Kwaidan" and "Samurai Rebellion" is perhaps the most visualy stunning of Japanese filmakers. His films are genraly brooding and dark, but tragicaly beautifull, where every shot is very carefully constructed as a work of art. Samurai Fiction is also the modern heir to this legacy, providing a film that is singularly visualy oriented. Some directors view the camera as merely a mechanism and the visual part of a film as simply a way of telling the story, but as a photographer myself, I disagree. Light, color, composition and even sound all strike emotional nerves. The elegance of the filming, the fluidity and dynamism of the actors' movements, and the overal visual experience is as fantastic all the way through the film as it is in the dramatic cover photo.In all of this, there is a deliberately modern, rock & roll feel to the movie, through which it not only mocks the pompisity and violence of the Samurai, but also the pompisity and traditionalism of the Samurai film makers.In the end, this is to Japanese Martial arts films what Zhang Yimo's latest film ("Hero" - only marginaly available in America) is to Chinese Martial arts movies: A soulfull and beautiful portrayal of the elegant and peacefull core of martial arts."
One Amazing Movie
K. A D. Veer | Redmond, Washington United States | 05/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The plot is as follows. A samurai clan entrusts a talented but unknown ronin to guard their ceremonial sword. He ends up stealing the lovely weapon for his own use. Upon hearing this, a young swordsman and his two best friends go on a journey to retrieve the sword. Their first confrontation causes each of the three warriors to take a path separate from the other.The plot is fairly basic (the stealing of the sword reminds me of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), but the way director Hiroyuki Nakano sees it is very original. Shot mostly in black and white, it's an obvious way to get the audience to appreciate his artistic vision. Perhaps my favorite aspect of "Samurai Fiction" is the musical score, composed by Tomoyasu Hotei, who you may know as "...the guy that made that song from Kill Bill" (Battle Without Honor or Humanity, the part where O-Ren is entering the house of blue leaves). Every fight scene and many simply well directed scenes are pulled from 1696 to modern day with hard rock or techno anthems.This is a must have DVD for any martial arts fans, particularly those looking to see where Quentin Tarintino got "Kill Bill" from."
Brent A. Anthonisen | Alpharetta, GA, USA | 09/28/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I saw this DVD in the shelves several months ago and was intrigued. Later I saw both installments of the "Kill Bill" saga and was particularly taken with a jam from the first volume's soundtrack called "Battle Without Honor Or Humanity" (which can now be heard in Jaguar ads, by the way).

Eventually I had heard that not only were some of Tarantino's scenes from "Kill Bill Vol. 1" taken directly from "Samurai Fiction", but the composer of "Battle Without Honor..." also scored the film and had a major starring role in it. I decided I had to give it a look.

And it was worth it. The movie is a different take on Akira Kurosawa's old skool samurai epics from the '50's and '60's. In some ways it's a bit of a send-up, but this is no lampoon in the vein of "Airplane" nor is it a knock-off/homage similar to...well, pretty much every movie Quentin Tarantino has ever made. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but the plot twist that brings the movie to its conclusion is hardly that of traditional martial arts movies (there seems to be more of "kinder and gentler" school of martial arts flicks being produced today...Jet Li's "Hero" is not dissimilar to "Samurai Fiction" in this regard).

There are enough old-skool elements that tie this film to its predecessors, but the film is marketed as "an MTV generation samuari movie", and I don't really see the connection (other than having prominent Japanese musicians playing roles and the score being more contemporarily pop-oriented rather than Japanese classical music), but the attitute is decidedly lighter. This is a good thing; Jackie Chan has longsince proved that comedy has a place in an otherwise serious action movie, and the humor in "Samurai Fiction" is nowhere nearly as obvious or Chaplin-esque as in Chan's work.

For me the real revelation was Tomoyasu Hotei, Japan's pop/rock superstar guitarist. He plays a master swordsman (Kazamatsuri) without alliance or direction who sets the events of the movie in motion by stealing a ceremonial samurai sword from the clan who enlisted him to be its guardian. No reason is ever given for his doing this; his motive seems to be simply "because I can".

He is not a typical martial arts antagonist; there are aspects of his character that make him seem to be far more honorable (and at times even more likeable) than Heishiro, the film's protagonist sworn to kill Kazamatsuri and return the sword to his clan. Complicating matters is the baggage taken on by Heishiro in the form of his two childhood friends and a pair of quasi-competent ninja sent by Heishiro's father to keep an eye on him. But I found Heishiro, though obviously intended to be cast as the "hero", to be rather an annoying personality. Chihuahua-like in both his manner and effectiveness, he was an annoyance whose physical (and especially mental) shortcomings were obvious to any other character in the film save himself.

The plot development (and the angle that makes this a "peaceful samurai" movie as described in the DVD's bonus materials) takes a unique twist when a mysterious stranger intervenes on Kazamatsuri's inevitable defeat of Heishiro and his companions and, with the help of his daughter, nurses the injured man back to health. Heishiro of course wants his revenge, but his saviors are pacifists who encourage the renunication of violence...even though Kazamatsuri is suspicious of the stranger's identity and begins to obsess over the idea of challenging him to a duel...

But Hotei is just amazing. It's difficult to tell what (if any) acting ability he has due to the minimal dialogue written for his character, but he definitely has presence. You can't take your eyes off him whenever he is onscreen. He is literally head and shoulders taller than anyone else onscreen, and he moves as effortlessly as the wind. And his eyes...he could cut diamonds with that stare. Terrific performance.

Watching this was a pleasing experience. The action is decent and the fight scenes are passable; none of the actors are professional martial artists and the production values aren't those of a Hong Kong action flick wherein a great number of special effects are used to enhance the action. But it is a well-shot film, mostly black-&-white with enough color scenes thrown in at intense moments to delight the arthouse crowd. The DVD extras are multiple (the documentary footage seems a bit redundant; an extra feature on scoring the movie would have been more appreciated by this reviewer); a nice "extra touch" are two scenes shown in color just to give an idea as to how the movie would look if shot naturally.

In short, this is a very interesting movie. It's artsy enough for the hipster sect, and it's got enough action to appeal to martial arts buffs. And it's not excessively violent despite the swordplay, nor is it sexually explicit despite a fair amount of the story taking place in a brothel (failed to mention that part, did I? You'll just have to see it in order to find out how that angle plays into the story). It's worth a viewing to anyone who's a fan of or at all curious about the genre."
Cowboy Samurai?!
Mabuse | Huerth, Germany | 07/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I love this move because it is unique. Somehow, this sentence says it all. This is a unique movie and very original, even it is somehow a parody but also a serious one about Samurai movies. The whole movie is B&W and the actors are sometimes playing like in a 'silent movie' with strong, overdone expressions esp. Tamaki Ogawa. However this is not overdone and the movie itself is IMO far away from being too serious. In fact it is hilarious and fun to watch. I have to admit that for people who do not know very much about Japanese culture, this movie might be boring and senseless. This is not a martial arts movie even there are some fighting scenes in this movie. They story is told using a valuable sword stolen by the incredible Tomoyasu Hotei, who acts in this movie as the villan and wrote most of the music for this movie too. He also wrote the IMO unforgettable music for the big battle in 'Kill Bill 1'.
If you can lower your expectations and let yourself dive into the story, watched some Kurosawa Samurai movies before and share a general addiction to Asian culture, you should give this movie a try and I believe, you will be positively surprised. For the real lover of Japanese movies this DVD comes in the only way, it is suitable for the fan: Original Japanese language with English subtitles. If this annoys you, put it back on the shelf.
For all others, highly recommended. It features a wonderful love story, some criminal story and how the underdog Samurai can beat the master Samurai in the best sense of a drama.
For me, this is an absolute gem and stands for it's own. As I wrote at the beginning: Unique.

I am writing this here, because you can't buy this movie in Germany but I can order it in the US and I highly appreciate that I can do this and Amazon is just a very reliable company. I am not paid to write this, it reflects my true opinion :-)"