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Kon Ichikawa's 47 Ronin
Kon Ichikawa's 47 Ronin
Actor: Koji Ishizaka; Hisaya Morishige; Ken Takakura; Ruriko Asaoka
Director: Kon Ichikawa
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House
UR     2007     2hr 9min

When a beloved feudal lord is forced to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) for assaulting a rude court official, 47 of his loyal retainers vow to avenge his death for the sake of honor. After patiently waiting and planning f...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Koji Ishizaka; Hisaya Morishige; Ken Takakura; Ruriko Asaoka
Director: Kon Ichikawa
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 07/17/2007
Original Release Date: 01/01/1994
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1994
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 2hr 9min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 12
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A Modern Retelling of the 47
J. Perry | San Francisco, Ca United States | 05/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Chushingura, the story of the Loyal 47 Ronin, has been put to film over 80 times. What can Ichikawa Kon's (Burmese Harp) 1994 version add to the many others? This version is well acted and focuses more on the planning of their revenge on Lord Kira than Toho's 1962 Classic: Chushingura.
Both of these films were produced by Toho, both were filmed in color, and both are available in the United States. Where they differ is that this version lacks the epic scope (and the epic running time of 207 minutes) of Chushingura. 47 Ronin fictionalizes (as all versions do) the behind the scenes planning and back stories of the people involved in this true historical event. We begin to see beyond the surface of the characters to their motivations and feelings; this is very much a modern reading of this story.
47 Ronin is beautifully filmed, capturing the many seasons of Japan, but this production at times looks like a television series. In some scenes a background open doorway is so overexposed that it almost engulfs the characters in the foreground. This would never happen in a first rate movie production. This is a minor quibble, because the acting and story is strong.
This can be a hard film to follow because a Japanese audience would know the characters so well because it is such a famous historical folk story. Reading accounts of the true events would help the western viewer enjoy the film more (AnimEigo provides an overview in the special features).
One other production note: AnimEigo has done a terrible job with the subtitles here. In some scenes dialogue is color coded is three colors which is very distancing and at other times a definition of a Japanese term appears in white text at the top of the screen! This is very distracting and takes away from what's on the screen (it's hard to read two sets of subtitles and watch the action at the same time!)

The 47 Human Beings
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 06/16/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"There are so many filmed versions of the classical Japanese tale of loyalty, The 47 Ronin also known as Chushingura, that sometimes there is very little incentive to try another version. But then you see the name "Ichikawa Kon" in the title, one of the legendary "Four Knights" of Japanese film (along with Kurosawa Akira, Kobayashi Masaki and Kinoshiita Keisuke), and you know it is worth your time.

Ichikawa's version is almost the complete opposite of Inagaki Hiroshi's famous sweeping epic Chushingura. Whereas Inagaki's version is all wide-screen and big, Ichikawa's story is intimate and personal. Inagaki filmed heroes. Ichikawa films men.

The story of the 47 Ronin is familiar, and generally needs no introduction. It is the Japanese equivalent of the Gunfight at the OK Corral, an actual historical event that has become so legendary that the true story has almost been lost. Young Lord Asano is provoked by Lord Kira in the Emperor's court, and draws his sword in a violent but ultimately failed attack. For this transgression, Asano is ordered to commit seppuki, ritual suicide, and his lands and castle are confiscated. Of his more than three hundred retainers, forty-seven decide to remain loyal, and bide their time for a year hiding their vengeance until one explosive winter night they assault the castle of Lord Kira to finish what their master had begun.

The 47 Ronin have become so legendary that they are inhuman, each a living embodiment of cherished Japanese ideals of courage and loyalty. In this film, "The 47 Ronin," Ichikawa strives to bring them back down to earth, to put blood back in the veins and make the heroes mortal. This makes for a less action-packed film, and there is very little sword swinging and blood letting. This is much more a story of candlelit rooms, of long goodbyes to wives and sweethearts, of second thoughts and hopeless ambitions. Ichikawa was a notoriously pacifistic director, and so his take on such an inherently violent story is fascinating. (Even his title shows his feelings. Ichikawa's original Japanese title ("Shijushichinin no shikaku") translates as the "47 Assassins."

Leading the cast in this production is Takakura Ken, a household name in Japan but perhaps best known in the US from his film Mr. Baseball. Takakura plays the leader of the 47 ronin, Oishi Kuranosuke, and his take is far from the stoic figure of legend. True to the story, Oishi feigns a man who has abandoned his duty for a life of pleasure, all while secretly plotting revenge. But this Oishi has truly fallen in love with a young a beautiful entertainer, and their scenes are some of the most touching I have seen in any production of this famous tale.

Animeigo's release of "47 Ronin" is up to their usual excellent standards. Animeigo offers a unique style of subtitles, where the dialog is subtitled with supertitled (above screen) cultural notes and explanations. I always appreciate this, as I feel I learn so much from the added information. There is also a "limited subtitle" option, which only subtitles the background signs and written Japanese ideal for anyone studying the language who would like to give the film go in Japanese. It seems like they should have added a third option without the supertitles, as they can distract from someone who just wants to watch the film but unfortunately this is not an option.

The DVD also includes extensive historical notes and program notes to learn more about the complex and interesting story."