M. Wesley | Phoenix, AZ USA | 09/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What is the nature of honor? That is the main theme of this movie. Much as the "Hunchback of Notre Dame" dealt with the nature of beauty, good and evil, by justaposing the characters' outward appearance, status, etc., with their inner-truth, this movie deals with the concept of honor in a similar fashion. The main character is an impoverished samurai who became a ronin when his master was ordered to commit ritual suicide for repairing the wall to his castle (the Shogun felt this was in preparation for war). Our main character is denied the honor of committing suicide to accompany his master and instead is tasked by his master with watching out for son. The movie shows how this once proud member of the elite samurai class deals with the hardships of daily life as a poor, single father. Throughout the movie, he is forced to make several difficult choices that affect him, his daughter, son-in-law and dying grandson. This is contrasted with the life and activities of a powerful samurai clan with which the main character becomes involved. This clan of "honorable" samurai are viewed in their elegant castle replete with Zen gardens and Buddhist artwork. The occupants of this splendid structure, however, are self-serving, scheming people who view our main character with contempt and as someone who is an embarrassment as a samurai. You can also see the palpable fear on the part of the clan members because they see how easily their fate could become the same as his. In the end, our main character shows that it is not the trappings and "things" in life that make a man honorable, but something much simpler . . . the choices one makes on a day to day basis. Oh, yeah . . . the climax of the movie features an incredible fight between the main character and the entire clan of samurai to whom he tells his story.
This movie is letter-boxed black and white and the scenery and cinematography are beautiful! The climactic battle is done in the understated, economic manner consistent with classic Japanese films and is beautiful to watch. So far, this is my favorite movie of the genre and is well worth checking out."
One of the all time best movies
vanhubris | Verona Beach, NY | 05/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I only have one complaint about this movie-it's only available as a region 3 dvd--luckily--I was able to make a copy that is region 1 playable--or I'd have been limited to watching this on my lap top! If you have the ability to make legal copies-or if you have a region 3 (or universal) player--by all means get this movie!
This is not an "action packed" Samurai movie--though the pacing is a little slow--the story is engrossing and never becomes boring. I would compare the the pace of this movie as being similar to Kihachi Okamoto's "Sword of Doom"
A young samurai request permission to commit harakiri--and to his surprise-not only is his request granted--but it's enforced.
Having sold his sword--he is forced to commit suicide with a bamboo sword--a nearly impossible task--so painful he bites his tongue off. The moment when he realizes he is to commit harakiri with the bamboo-the shock and horror on the yooung Samurais face emotes indescribable empathy
The remainder of the story involves his father in law--who reveals why the young samurai made his request--and ends in his seeking revenge. Details are spared so as not to give too much away to anyone who hasn't seen the movie!
Kobayashi's film is brilliant--in my opinion superior to "Seven Samurai" (NO EASY TASK) even without Mifune-my favorite actor!
Not to say that Kobayashi is better than Kurosawa--but in this particular movie my opinion is that Kobayashi was nearly perfect!
THIS MOVIE HAS RECENTLY BECOME AVAILABLE AS A REGION 1 DVD"
Jacques | Athens, Greece | 03/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A japanese tragedy and a cinema lesson for all cinephiles. Kobayashi is a mster. The copy is not very good but we must have it in our DVDtheque."