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The Twilight Samurai
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10 from N/A votes
Release: 02 Nov 2002 /

The Twilight Samurai

Genre: Drama, History, Romance
Director: Yôji Yamada,
Stars: , ,
Synopsis: A 19th-century samurai tries to protect a battered wife.

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Critic Reviews

I saw this film last night with my nephew, and chose it simply because the title was interesting and it was playing at the local art house, so I gave it a shot. As I am a bit disillusioned by the Oscars these days I don't pay much attention to them, I was unaware that this film was a huge success in Japan and received a Best Foreign Film nomination. What I received in return for my curiosity was one of the best foreign films that I have seen in a long, long time.

The crux of the film is the relationship between personal honor and social honor. Iguchi is indeed a most honorable man. He truly loves his children and his senile mother, and sacrifices his dignity and station to care for them. He works from dawn to dusk, attending his duties with the court by day and working on his farm by night, somehow finding time to also sell handmade insect/bird cages just to help his family get by. He does all this even though it soon becomes apparent that he has no equal as a swordsman, and in that right alone deserves the respect of those who deride him. We come to understand that selfless sacrifice is the single greatest act of honor, especially when one can still consider himself a blessed man. However, the personal honor that Iguchi wields even more skillfully than his sword becomes at odds with the social honor that his status as a samurai calls for. This conundrum is the heart of almost every scene in the film, and reaches its peak as the story moves toward its climax. Though Iguchi tells his best friend that he would gladly surrender his status as a samurai to become a simple farmer, he finds himself unable to resist his call to duty under the code of the samurai. He knows that to be honorable in his duty as a samurai, he must compromise his honor as a man. How can he kill a man to fulfill the unjust motives of his clan, especially when the man he is fighting is so much like himself?

The direction of the film is beautifully impressionist. Yamada crafts pictures of everyday life which gives us an inherent understanding of the life of Iguchi. In one scene, he sits dejectedly on his doorstep after coming home in the rain, lamenting the holes in his socks while his squire stands outside in the downpour. In another, he quietly applies his perfectionism to the construction of his cages in his dark and dirty living room while his family sleeps. In yet another, he shares a meal with his family as they laugh and enjoy each other's company. Yamada's eye for imagery, in combination with his patient and subtle storytelling, are reminiscent of great impressionist directors such as Ozu, Tarkovsky, and Malick. There are many other memorable images in this film, many of which depict the duality of nature. In one scene we see soldiers learning to fire rifles under the spring buds of a lotus tree. In another we see men fishing along a sapphire blue river, with golden fields behind them and a stunning, snow-capped Mount Fuji on the horizon-- and the bodies of starved peasant children floating down the river.

This is a great film. See it.

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