In his late color masterpiece: Kagemusha (The Shadow Warrior); director Akira Kurosawa returned to the samurai film and to a primary theme of his celebrated career-the play between illusion and reality. Sumptuously reconst... more »ructing the splendor of feudal Japan and the pageantry of war, Kurosawa creates a soaring historical epic that is also a somber meditation on the nature of power.« less
dsrussell | Corona, CA. United States | 04/15/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow, what a movie experience! "Kagemusha (The Shadow Warrior)" is my favorite film from direct Akira Kurosawa, which is saying one heck of a lot when one considers "Rashomon", "Seven Samurai", and "Ran". I sat riveted to the television screen during the entire presentation. It is a story of a petty thief who, because he looks very much like the great Warlord Shingen, is given the chance to redeem himself and play the great Warlord's double. The heart of the film is the inner change and new found strength that progresses through the thief as he learns to become the Warlord. Awesome in its imagery, "Kagemusha" will mesmerize you and move you. Between 1 and 10, this powerful Kurosawa classic gets a 10. With his passing, along with Stanley Kubrick, the world has lost two great treasures."
One of Art's Great Movies!
John Noodles | A Field in ND, USA | 04/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"William Goldman, and American screenwriter, admonished aspiring screenwriters to begin scenes as close to end as possible. This is the sort of pacing that audiences--American audiences, at least--are accustomed to. Akira Kurosawa's "Kagemusha" is quite a different sort of movie than would ever be produced by the American or even the European mainstream movie industry.. Its scenes are long and talky, with periods of silence, and still cameras. The scenery, make-up, and mannerisms of the actors are exaggerated and often melodramatic, like you would find in formal Japanese cinema. Anyone seeing this movie expecting a medieval action flick along the lines of, say, "Exalibur," is very likely to be disappointed.Which would be a shame. This is a magnificent movie. The photography and set design alone are breathtaking. This is more a historical piece than a character study--the characters remain, for the most part, two-dimensional. The focus remains tightly on the strategies and deceptions involved in keeping together the Shingen Takeda clan when their leader has died.Scenes are often long and patiently filmed. In one quietly dramatic scene, we see two lines of cavalry come galloping over an incline from a great distance. The thunder of the racing horses builds, and the lines converge before us. In this single shot, not much else happens, but the composition and sound create a powerful effect. This movie is filled with subtle, magnificent moments like this. The battle scenes--well, no one can beat Kurosawa here. The final scene depicts devestation and defeat with surprisingly little gore, yet is no less powerful (and, arguably, more) than, say, the graphically violent scenes in "Saving Private Ryan."This is a must-see for any movie buff."
Review of Criterion 2-disc DVD edition
keviny01 | 04/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"KAGEMUSHA is the great 1980 drama involving a clan of 16th-Century Japanese warlords who want to deceive their enemies by having a common thief impersonate their murdered leader. This is a thought-provoking film about reality and illusion, as well as a visually inviting work filled with many striking scenes and compositions that Kurosawa films are known for. A memorable 6-minute opening shot of three identical-looking men, an elaborate dream sequence, and a harrowing montage of the aftermath of the final battle are among some of Kurosawa's finest moments in his long film career. Lead actor Tatsuya Nakadai was only in his 40s when he made KAGEMUSHA, playing a much older man and effectively conveying the guile and conflicted feelings of the imposter. Nakadai would also play the lead role in Kurosawa's next film, RAN, 5 years later, again unrecognizably playing a much older man.
Criterion has released the definitive video edition for KAGEMUSHA: a Region-1, 2-disc DVD of the uncut, 180-minute version of film. The anamorphic widescreen video quality is generally very good, except for some occasional graininess. The original Japanese audio is in Dolby Digital 4.0 surround (3 front, and 1 mono rear channels), although surround effects are infrequently used.
The best supplement on the disc is Stephen Prince's full-length audio commentary, which, due to the film's length, is able to elaborate on many topics in great details. Much of Prince's narration (I would say half of it) is more on the historical background of the film's period than the filmmaking and art of the film. He compares certain plot details against historical facts to show how Kurosawa uses his artistic license to convey his own ideas. Regarding the film itself, he emphasizes that this is an atypical Kurosawa film in that its hero tries to conform to the prevailing social order, unlike the nonconformist rebels and outcasts in past films such as SEVEN SAMURAI or YOJIMBO. On the film's artistry, he observantly points out that in a film about illusions, many of the key events in the plot are aptly NOT shown on screen. He also provides a great analysis on Kurosawa's most elaborate dream sequence.
Prince also does a good job of pointing out the differences between the shortened, 162-min international version and this 180-min uncut version. The longer version does not have "20 minutes of footage involving Kenshin Uesugi", as misreported at IMDB. The added scenes are, in fact, merely short, trimmed scenes and shots that are sprinkled all over the film. They add to the overall continuity, without altering anything in the main plot line. A majority of the added scenes are just too trivial to mention or to even notice. The few noteworthy ones include a much longer montage of the aftermath of the final battle, and a wholly added scene where the fake Shingen is being examined by the Jesuit priest physician -- this scene also has the great Takashi Shimura's only appearance in the film, seen for the first time on this DVD by viewers outside of Japan.
For Kurosawa fans, the second best feature on the disc is perhaps the collection of impressionistic paintings by Kurosawa that were later used by him as storyboards for the film. In a 41-minute segment called "Image: Kurosawa's Continuity", hundreds of such paintings are shown, accompanied by sound clips from the films. In a still gallery section called "A Vision Realized", there are about 20 of the paintings placed side by side with still photos from the film. Many of these same paintings are also reprinted on the 45-page booklet that comes with this DVD.
The booklet also include 3 wonderful essays. As is usually the case, Criterion took the effort of including different writings that don't duplicate one another. One essay deals with the film itself, its art and its history. Another one is a Sight-and-Sound interview with Kurosawa. The third one covers Kurosawa himself biographically.
The disc also comes with a well-made 41-minute making-of documentary that is comprised of mostly interviews, stills, and clips from KAGEMUSHA. It's part of a 2003 series called "Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create" (other episodes of this series are available on Criterion DVDs of IKIRU, THE LOWER DEPTHS, and STRAY DOG). In Japanese with optional English subtitles, it has interview segments of the cast and crew, including Kurosawa, Nakadai, Kota Yui (the child actor, who is now grown up), and others. They recount the challenges they faced, the artistic and technical choices they made, and a few amusing anecdotes.
Also included are trailers, a few whiskey commercials Kurosawa made on the set of KAGEMUSHA (other than the monetary reasons for which they were made, there is nothing special about these commercials), and a 20-minute interview segment with George Lucas and Francis Coppola, who praise Kurosawa's genius and lament that the film business often doesn't accommodate non-commercial films, even those by great directors."
An opinion from Japanese Criterion fan.
Naoki Nomura | Saitama, Japan | 12/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is about time to get this film's definitive version.
I am Amazon user in Japan and already own the original LD release and huge, expensive DVD boxes(cost me about $1,0000.....), and I can assure you that this Criterion version will be "THE BEST" one.
While Japanese version was created from same new Hi-Definition transfer, all features, three-hour movie and 45minits documentary, are bundled in dual-layered disc, which is too much to take in one, and the sound bit rate is 338kbps instead of 448kbps.
I expect, likewise "Red Beard","Hidden fortress" and "Ikiru", one disc will be devoted to the feature presentation and the extra to the other disc on Criterion version so that the quality can be maximized, and can be better than original Japanese release.
Still, among the Japanese original box set, I can say that the quality of "Sansiro Sugata" and two-disc set of "Seven Samurai" are great. I can't wait to see what the folks at Criterion will do to the rest of Kurosawa film releases.
P.S For the first time, in documantary, Mr.Nakadai talks about taking over the title role from great Shintaro Katsu(Zatoich)who was originaly cast for Shingen and Kagemusha. Simply amazing."
A Perfect Shadow
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 09/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
I am slowly wading through the huge backlog of Kurosawa Akira films that I have accumulated over the last few years. Last week I watched Rashomon for the second time and now I have finally watched the three hour long epic Kagemusha. I am glad I had to watch it for a class because three hours is quite a chunk of time. However, Kagemusha is quite a beautiful and entertaining film threaded with humor and sadness so its three hour time does not seem quite as long as it is.
Opening with one long static shot, the viewer is presented with three men who practically look identical sporting the same kimono, hair style, and beard. We soon learn that the center figure is the warlord Takeda Shingen, the man on the left is his brother Nobukado, and the man on the right is a thief who was saved by Nobukado from being crucified because of his uncanny resemblance to Shingen. Nobukado desires to make the thief into a kagemusha, e*ZÒ, shadow warrior, like himself so he can act as a double for Shingen. Shingen is against the idea at first, but is soon impressed by a loud outburst from the thief so he allows the man to be trained as his double.
On the verge of achieving his dream of overtaking Kyoto and keeping his enemies Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu at bay, Shingen leaves the safety of his abode to listen to the flute played by an enemy with the confines of a blockaded castle. However, Shingen is shot and subsequently dies. Yet before he passes away he tells his men to keep his death for a secret for three years. With no other option available the ranking generals of Shingenfs army keep their lordfs death a secret and force the thief to play the role of Shingen. However, this is easier said that donec
Considered by critics and fans alike to be one of Kurosawafs most powerful, if more formulaic films, Kagemusha delves into the recesses of history and asks the questions what happened to Shingen? Why did he fail when he was so close to victory? However, this is only a small part of the films appeal. It, like many other Kurosawa films, shows how modernity, in this film rifles, impend on a culture. A great film that can be enjoyed at a number of levels, Kagemusha is a film to be watched not only by those who enjoy Kurosawa or samurai films, but by those who enjoy long epic films as well.