KAGEMUSHA, The Shadow Warrior
DIRECTOR: AKIRA KUROSAWA
COUNTRY: JAPAN 1987
WRITTEN BY: AKIRA KUROSAWA and MASATO IDE
MUSIC: SHINICHIRO IKEBE
CAST: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki
PRODUCED BY: George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola.
SUPER FEATURES: STORY. A Kurosawa beauty.
It's hard to believe that one man can keep turning out films, and never suffer in quality. And he writes most of them as well.
THAT'S THE SIGN OF A MASTER.
And the odd thing is that unlike a lot of popular film makers, who continue to repeat the same theme, with a new story, this man can take an old story and change it into a new film, with no sign of the old film at all.
KAGEMUSHA, could be seen as yet another samurai and shogun film. But it isn't. It is a well thought out story, and well carried out, throughout, deserving a much wider audience than it has gotten. It is visually glorious, as is the trademark of this film maker, and has some very impressive shot configuration, which I have only seen in the films of David Lean.
The story is simple enough, and recalls the competitive nature of the shogun spirit, and their endless battles at the expense of many lives. This time, an aging shogun, finds himself unable to lead his people, and he decides on a replacement, to keep the myth of the fearsome man and warrior alive, and, thus maintain the control, rather than losing it to another family by way of marriage, or loss. To accomplish this, the old shogun finds a young, and apparently fearless fighter, to be his double. Only a few will know that this is happening ( later they are dispatched, in order to protect the identity once the old man has died ) and what is being done. The older warrior figures that his council will make all the decisions necessary to run the constant field battles.
However, the twist is that the replacement turns out to be an excellent field general, and has been able to devise and win more wars by his capable decision making than the council.
The only problem is that the replacement has moments of self doubt and pity, and they are shown in staged sets, with props, thus suggesting the idea that his problems are illusory. But it is hard for this sensitive man to realize that a bum ( basically ) all of a sudden is a master general. And then the story centers around his actions till the end of the film. I won't give away the ending.
With beautiful sound effect's work, excellent footage of battle scenes, and a knack for dramaturgy, this film maker stands out as a real master, specially seen as such when two of his best friends George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola produced this film, and distributed it around the world, much to the chagrin of the Japanese film makers whose attitude towards money making is as fierce as the shogun's thirst for blood. Akira Kurosawa has been highly critical of many of his countries 'money factories' ( as he calls the studios ) because they have no respect for art, or creative people's work. And for the past fifteen years, he has found his financing in Europe and America, because his counter parts want a film that can attract the masses, not educate masses with artistry!
There are very few artists, and people, who refuse to compromise on their beauty, and AKIRA KUROSAWA is one of them. His work is impeccable, and really should be seen and appreciated, in as wide a screen as possible.
Few films, know how to make a country side so glorious. And fewer still can make the action in front of it as good, or better.
CHECK IT OUT.
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