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|Love and Honor|
Director: Yoji Yamada
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Anime & Manga, Animation
An award winning masterpiece of sacrifice and devotion, Love and Honor weaves a timeless tale set in the waning days of feudal Japan. Directed by Academy Award® nominee Yoji Yamada (The Twilight Samurai) and starring Takuy... more »
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"Would I have been better off knowing nothing?" asks Shinnoj
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 02/04/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Love and Honor (Bushi no Ichibun) is the last in director Yoji Samada's great trilogy of movies about a dying class and the ordinary people caught up in the changes. These three films are not tragedies, but somber stories of rigid, unfair class structures enforced by ferocious standards of loyalty, obligation and obedience. Now, at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, Japanese society for those at the top is crumbing. The samurai are warriors who have had no wars to fight for generations; those unwilling or unable to adapt will become irrelevant. The farmers remain important because they produce food. The artisans are important because they produce products. The merchants are the bottom caste because they apparently produce nothing. Of course, they dirty their hands with commerce and, thus, produce wealth. They will come to rule Japan. More and more samurai are leaving their caste to become merchants.
For now, however, the samurai class in its increasing irrelevance is increasingly parasitic. Samurai ideals of honor and obligation are stained by opportunism, venality and self-interest. Honor remains for many, but it can be hard for those, even samurai, who must try to live their lives in an unfair world.
Shinnojo Mimura (Takuya Kimura) is a young, lower-caste samurai who earns a modest stipend as a food taster for his clan lord. He and his wife, Kayo (Rei Dan) are happy and in love. He has prospects to be an expert swordsman. He hopes to start his own school. Then he tastes some shellfish and becomes seriously ill. He survives but is blind. He may very well lose his stipend, his house and the ability to support his mother and relatives. They plead with Kayo to go to clan captain Shimada and beg for help. When Shimada suggests that he would be wiling to help her husband in exchange for her intimate favors, her world and her love for her husband are placed at great risk. Her husband's mother and family, anxious about maintaining their own status, urges upon Kayo a sacrifice of Kayo's honor. Kayo, like her husband and all the protagonists in Yamada's other two films, have limited options. When her blind husband realizes that their relationship is subtly changing, he is resolved to secure her honor and his own...a blind samurai dueling with an experienced senior officer.
Perhaps it's enough to say that this film, so filled with autumnal somberness, ends on a note of spring. I liked it a lot. Serious films do not always require a sad finish.
Yoji Yamada's trilogy, all based on stories by Shuhei Fujisawa, are The Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei) (2002), The Hidden Blade (Kakushi Ken Oni no Tsume) (2004) and Love and Honor (Bushi no Ichibun) (2006). They can be watched in any order. The movie is beautifully photographed and the DVD transfer is first rate. There are no extras."
4 ½ +Stars: The Closing Chapter to Yoji Yamada's Samurai Tri
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 10/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"LOVE AND HONOR (a.k.a. Bushi No Ichibun) is the third chambara period film by Yoji Yamada. After the two award-winning samurai films by this acclaimed director, the expectations for his third and last samurai film is extremely high. Thankfully, Yamada once again delivers; "Love and Honor" has won numerous film awards, cementing the director's status as one of the best chambara directors of the modern age. "Twilight Samurai", "Hidden Blade" and "Love and Honor" have different storylines and characters, they all share the same ideals of the samurai code: Honor, Duty and Loyalty. Also, the three films have an ace in their sleeves; Family and Responsibility.
Synopsis derived from the region-3 DVD back cover:
It is only a short time after Shinnojo Mimura (Takuya Kimura) is appointed to the post of food taster that he goes blind after a shellfish that brings on food poisoning is a accidentally put into a lunch for the Lord of the Clan.
Until this time Shinnojo, as a lower-ranked samurai has lived a thrifty but happy life with his wife Kayo (Rei Dan). However, the fact is that Shinnojo is unable to work in the castle any longer. Kayo is told to approach the domain's Head clerk, Toya Shimada (Mitsugoro Bando), and ask him to use his good offices in having Shinnojo's stipend maintained. In return, he has demanded her body. Out of anger and despair, Shinnojo divorces her. Eventually Shinnojo learns the truth. Shimada merely took his pleasure with Kayo; not one word did he say about how Shinnojo was to be treated to the Lord. Shinnojo cannot stand it a moment longer. He challenges Shimado to a duel.
Once again, this film explores the reality of corrupt authority figures in feudal Japan. At first impression, I thought; "Blind Samurai? Is this a Zatoichi rip-off?!" But no, the film sidesteps that impression and the director has put together an involving tale of human inner strength and heroism. Not just from Mimura's character, but also from Kayo's character. While the first two films are partly a tale of love forbidden by social status, Yamada now explores the relationship of a petty samurai with his devoted wife. This is a welcome approach, as it is a very admirable effort that also delves into the loyalty and devotion of the Japanese wife during feudal times. After all, I remember the old adage; "Behind every great man is a great woman". People may argue that Kayo's character was indeed confused, that the steps she took were totally unnecessary. However, I believe the director wanted to express the desperation of those wives during that period. Believe me, women during those days were extremely devoted to their husband. I am happy to say that besides focusing on the samurai ideals, it also focuses on the strength of the Japanese woman. The film leans toward the character study of the lead characters as well as a period study of feudal Japan.
The film's proceedings and cinematography are similar to its two predecessors. The film is beautiful to watch and the way it is structured and paced is remarkable. True, the film may get a bit predictable in the middle but it is to the director's and the cast's credit that viewers will not even lose a tiny bit of interest. There is one swordfight in the film so this third chambara film may disappoint those looking for highly fast-paced swordplay. Some people may also argue that even a skilled samurai without his sight would be helpless against another swordsman, but the way the duel was choreographed and executed was very convincing. It is very realistic and follows the style in swordplay in the previous two chapters.
Aside from Yamada's excellent direction, the cast gives an excellent performance. Takuya Kimura has definitely matured in his acting abilities. It is difficult to play a handicapped role, let alone one who is a blind swordsman. Kimura thoroughly expresses the suppressed anger and frustration in the sequences. His performance in the duel was very convincing that I felt his fear and determination when he clashed with his opponent. The duel may be short but it had so much emotional impact that I was immersed in the footage. Rie Dan truly fit the character of the disadvantaged wife. As with the two lead female characters in "Twilight Samurai" and "Hidden Blade", she had the warm charisma that surely represents the simple devoted wife during the Edo Period. Yoji Yamada seems to always find the right performers for the right role.
Yoji Yamada has once again proven that he isn't a "one-hit wonder". I hope that this will not be the last chambara film he directs. While all three films have the common denominators (samurai ideals) that link them together, there are subtle details in all three of his samurai films whose messages cannot be ignored. "Twilight Samurai" expresses humility and family, "Hidden Blade" expresses commitment and choices, "Love and Honor" effectively expresses devotion and forgiveness; all because of the power of LOVE. Yoji Yamada's samurai trilogy is truly FANTASTIC!!
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! [4 ½ +Stars]
A Warrior's Duty
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 10/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best modern Japanese films I have seen. It embodies all of the things I love about Japanese cinema: the pacing, the subtlety, the quietude with sudden explosive bursts of intensity, the struggle between obligation and personal desires. All of this with director Yamada Yoji's keen eye for visuals, painting lovely images that counterpoints the sorrow and desperation of the characters.
The third in Yamada's "Samurai Trilogy", including The Twilight Samurai ("Tasogare Seibei" 2002) and The Hidden Blade ("Kakushi ken, Oni no tsume" 2004), it is difficult to believe that this is a director who has made his career filming the ubiquitous and repetitive "Tora-san" films, which were released once a year from 1969 till the lead actors death in 1996. Who knew that an artist of this depth lay beneath the guiding hand of the bumbling and familiar traveling salesman Kuruma Torajiro?
The director clearly knows his Japanese pop-culture films, and offers up a riff on the "blind-samurai" genre of films popularized by the long-lasting series Zatoichi, but updating it with modern sensibilities and the kind of warrior weariness found in such films as Ronin Gai and Unforgiven. In a more realistic take, this blind samurai does not become an all-powerful super-fighter, but is instead humbled and shamed by his handicap, no longer able to supply for or protect his family, including his beautiful wife.
There are many deeper themes here. Shame is only shameful when it becomes known. Honor is poetic and beautiful, but it does not put food on a table. Justice is a fantastic concept, but meaningless without strenght of arms to enforce it. All of the actors put in powerful and nuanced performances, specifically Kimura Takuya, best known in Japan as a member of the pop super-group SMAP (think Backstreet Boys or N' Sync...). He actually received the Best Actor nomination for the Japanese academy awards, but declined the nomination as he felt it wasn't right for an inexperienced pop star to compete against experienced and established actors.
The only problem I have with this film is the title chosen for the US release, "Love and Honor". I think it pales in comparisson to the native title, "Bushi no Ichibun", where "Bushi" means warrior and "Ichibun" means duty or honor, the one part of himself a warrior cannot live without."
A magnficent film but I deduct a star due to no special feat
Dennis A. Amith (kndy) | California | 09/01/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Acclaimed director Yoji Yamada, well-known in Japan for his films based on the fishing manga "Tsuribaka Nisshi" (aka "Free and Easy) went into a direction of creating a film trilogy based on samurai. Both films such as 2002's "Tasogare Seibei (The Twilight Samurai) and 2004's "Kakushi Ken Oni no Tsume" (aka The Hidden Blade) were critically acclaimed and were award winning films. But his final in the trilogy would be the 2006 film "Bushi no Ichibun" (Love and Honor) starring SMAP vocalist Takuya Kimura.
Takuya Kimura is one of Japan's popular and trendy stars known for his dramas such as "Long Vacation", "Love Revolution", "GIFT", "Hero" and many other television dramas that have achieved enormous ratings in Japan. But one area that Kimura at the time had not conquered was the big screen. Having appeared in Wong Kar-Wai's "2046 in 2004, it was not until "Bushi no Ichibun" that would give the actor fame for his award-winning performance for his role as the character of Shinnojo Mimura. But also gain a lot of press when the actor declined his 2007 nomination for the Japanese Academy Awards because he felt that he didn't deserve to be in the same category with the other, more distinguished actors that were nominated.
Needless to say, "Bushi no Ichibun" (Love and Honor) was nominated for 13 Japanese Academy Awards and won three for "Best Cinematography", "Best Lighting" and "Best Supporting Actor" and Takuya Kimura was now seen more than just a commercial actor and would go on to receive critical success with another film the following year with "Hero". As for Yoji Yamada, he has went on to do more adaptations with his "Tsuribaka Nisshi" films and also create another award winning film in 2008 titled "Kabe".
The film stars Takuya Kimura as Shinnojo Mimura. He has a good life, living in a home with his loving wife Kayo (Rei Dan) and his servant Tokuhei (Takashi Sasano) but he is growing tired of his job as a samurai with a job being a food taster for his Lord. During those times, samurai's served as food tasters because of enemy infiltration trying to assassinate a clan's lord via poison through the food. Samurai's taste the food and if they suffer no illness, the food is then given to the Lord of their clan.
But Shinnojo is growing tired and wants to quit it all by starting up his own dojo and teaching children how to fight with this sword. His wife is supportive of his decision and looks forward for him to train the children at their home.
But during a usual day of food tasting, Shinnojo suffers from food poisoning from a fish that is not supposed to be served on a certain type of dish and can create a toxin that can kill a person. The good news is that Shinnojo manages to survive, the bad news is that the effects of the poisoning has left him blind.
With Shinnojo unable to perform his duties as a samurai, the family now goes through a crisis of who will be the financial provider and Shinnojo now feeling worthless because not only will he lose his his samurai status, he loses his pride. And thus, he is left with darkness and contemplating suicide. Despite what has gone wrong, his wife Kayo loves him unconditionally no matter what. She will do anything for her husband.
With family trying to help Kayo with choices of how she can help take care of herself and her husband, a higher-ranked samurai named Toya Shimada who has been smitten with Kayo when she was single, has offered to help her...but for a price. She give up her body to him and he will try to get people to support her family in continuing his samurai stipend.
When Shinnojo finds out that his Lord has agreed to continue his stipend, rumors start to circulate about his wife being with another man. Shinnojo wonders at what price his wife may have had to pay in order to get his stipend and thus it sets him off into a dangerous path that may lead him to losing everything that is precious to him including his own life.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"Love and Honor" is presented in 16:9 widescreen. Picture quality especially the cinematography by Mutsuo Naganuma is absolutely beautiful. Although most of the film is shot at the home of Shinnojo Mimura, there are intricate details of how things were in feudal Japan. For example, using a pot with hot coal in order to iron clothes and also the costume design and set production looks absolutely fantastic.
Audio is presented in Japanese 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound and for the most part, the film is dialogue-based and front and center channel driven. There are scenes during heavy rainfall that utilize the surround but for the most part, dialogue and the music are through the front and center channels. The DVD also includes an English dubbed track in stereo which is not my preference but I can understand those who don't like reading subtitles, wanting to watch it with English dialogue.
As for subtitles, English subtitles are offered.
There are no special features included on the DVD.
"Love and Honor" (Bushi no Ichibun) is an excellent film. The talent were well-cast, the storyline was fantastic, the production and costume design was well-done, personally this is a wonderful film that I wholeheartedly recommend.
Personally, it was great to see Takuya Kimura in such a serious role. As a fan of many of his Japanese dramas, you come to expect a lot of trendiness when it comes to his roles but like many Japanese viewers, who were skeptical if Kimura could transition into the big screen but most of all play a believable samurai, Takuya Kimura definitely delivered.
As for director Yoji Yamada, his films are expected to be successful. Even when I started watching his films beginning with "Tsuribaka nisshi 3 back in 1990, when it came to watching Japanese films, my Japanese friends would always recommend his films and would tell me he is like the Spielberg from Japan. Needless to say, the excitement that he has brought to his films, especially his samurai trilogy and how well-crafted they are shows how passionate and amazing the director truly is.
But as I explain to you of all the positives of "Love and Honor", I do have one major negative and that is the lack of special features included on the DVD. No Japanese trailer, no featurette, nothing. In Japan, there were probably five different releases for this film on DVD but special features ranged from backstage footage, a promotional video, sword battling featurette, interviews with the talent, footage from the 78 days of filming and more. So, it's difficult to know that you enjoyed this film so much but there are no special features on the DVD.
"Love and Honor" is a fantastic film! If you enjoy films that are about feudal Japan or are a Yoji Yamada or KimuTaku fan, "Love and Honor" is definitely recommended!"