THE SAMURAI I LOVED
Following that tangent of Warhammer 40K book reviews i figured i would get back to reviewing my first love (movies) for a bit. Don’t worry though i still have a lot more books to review and will be getting to them in due time.
As you may have not noticed i made a new page a number of weeks ago titled “samurai cinema”, and i have been meaning to review each and every one of my samurai films in my collection. For starters i decided not to start out with trotting out the old staples of the genre (The Seven Samurai, and indeed just about any Kurosawa film…) and start with something a little bit more obscure.
The film first caught my eye as i perused through the awful organisation of Chinook Mall’s HMV (why do they alphabetised the movies? When they are organised like that you have to know exactly what it is you are looking for you can’t just say to yourself: Today i’m looking for a western, or a Martial Arts movie, or a comedy, or horror. NOPE. Don’t know what title you want? You don’t get it.) looking for a samurai movie and found this lone little film sitting there.
Now i had seen it there before (for months actually) and hadn’t yet picked it up as it was 29.99 and lets face it that title is just awful. But in desperation to experience something new i bit the bullet and bought it, and i am quite glad to admit that i’m not disappointed with having spent that much on a movie i didn’t know a thing about.
But enough jabbering on to…
As the title might suggest this film is naturally a love story, and being a love story it is quite naturally an unrequited love story. Now i bring that up because although the box will tell you that it is also about that age-old Samurai staple (regaining honour, revenge, etc.) it is the tale of the love had and lost between two people that gives this story a reason to exist.
Seeing that the romance (or lack thereof in this case) is the meat it is important that you can believe that Bunshiro and Fuku are two real people who develop real feelings for each other, and to this the film is a success. Unlike in say, Attack of the Clones the film actually presents how real people might fall in love with one another.
When we first see them it is while they are going about their routines at the river, she gets bitten by a snake and he cares about it enough to suck out the bit of venom that it left behind. The first meeting despite being a pretty throwaway scene over all is extremely important because he watches her run home. Although the film shows that Fuku very quickly develops feelings for Bunshiro it’s those little details that give away the fact that he genuinely cares for her. He comes back to apologise for leaving her alone at a festival even though he was beaten up, and he thinks about her enough that he asks his mother why she was at his house and is silently very concerned when he learns it’s because she and her mother are borrowing food. The scene following where they take turns peeking out their doors at their houses (but not seeing each other do the same), is both touching and very convincing of their feelings of one another.
Further more, when his father is forced to commit Hara-Kiri for a crime he didn’t commit and Bunshiro is tasked with carting his body miles back home in stifling heat. Just as he is ready to collapse in exhaustion and sorrow, Fuku comes to help him. With the sharing of this one burden they make the biggest connection with each other that can happen, they know without saying it to one another that he can never thank her enough, and that she would never want to be in the first place.
If you look at these series of events unfold you can begin to see how a failed love story like Attack of the Clones miss stepped so horribly. Instead of stifled on the nose dialogue, we have scenes showing how growing feelings are starting to manifest. Instead of Anakin creepily coming onto Padme, we have mutual attraction and concern. Instead of an awful, awful scene in a flower filled meadow, we have two people sharing one burden, and the intimacy of the look they share with one another shatters anything that Attack of the Clones or (i will dare to say) Empire Strikes Back had on display. I could blather on about this but for brevity’s sake i will just stop this here.
To add to this beautifully structured drama the film also takes the time to build a very nice father son relationship as well. Through some carefully crafted scenes we really get the sense that Bunshiro has a deep love and respect for his father, which makes the lack of intimacy shown between the two (due to societal values) add to the tragedy of his death and Bunshiro’s task of dealing with this fathers remains.
Compared to the first half’s nice pace, structuring and drama the second half unfortunately does a tad bit too much meandering. This can be attributed to the films reliance on personal relationships to drive the plot instead of actual strong plotting. Bunshiro is more than a little lost as to what to do with himself as he missed out on something very promising already, and the film follows suit.
I can’t say that the last half is bad (quite the contrary) it’s just a little too slow, but due to the character nature of the film its understandable.
The Samurai I Loved isn’t a huge epic, it isn’t particularly rousing or thrilling, but it is a beautiful little drama that shows that some things in life are universal among all people, throughout all cultures and time periods, and i can and do highly recommend it for anyone in the mood for a good cry and a great movie(and yes i am still secure with my masculinity).
**** out of Five