Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


It's tough to say whether I am a jaded movie-watcher or not. I like to think I am fairly energetic on my favorite topics. I certainly don't ever want my blog to look like a bored jumble of words. If that ever happened then there wouldn't be a point of keeping a blog in the first place. But sometimes life jumps in a and throws a million things at you. Or at other times you decide to get serious about reading a certain epic tome entitled War and Peace and everything else seems to be in a state of nonexistence. Right now I am in the company of Prince Vassily and Prince Andrei and Pierre and I just find it tough to concentrate on anything else because this book requires much concentration. After being defeated by the first five chapters when I first picked it up months ago I decided to plow through the other day and I made it a whopping 35 pages into the book. I have my character guide printed out and even a large paperback I can read since I find this more convenient than the ebook version. I already am using two bookmarks, one for my current place while the other is for the notes at the back, but I'm toying with the idea of using sticky notes if that's what it takes. 

It's in this rather consumed state of mind I must review a rather fantastic film by Kurosawa Akira. I hope this review doesn't feel rushed. Apologies to all if it does. 

Kagemusha is a film from 1980 about a warlord and his double in 1570's Japan. While the idea itself about a man in power using a double wasn't original for this movie, I suppose it wouldn't be going so far to say that this is one of the films that define the genre. This and the Korean film Masquerade are easily the best films I've seen involving the idea. Although the edge would have to go to Kagemusha

To date, this is the oldest foreign language film I've ever seen. Obviously I have so much more homework to do, but it was a welcome challenge. And, since I am perfectly adjusted to reading subtitled works at this point, I found myself enjoying the scenery without worrying about missing a key phrase here or there. 

I can't really name an actor without Googling. I was unfamiliar with all of them by name. I only knew of Kurosawa from his reputation and influence and this film was enough to prove his worth for me. Not that his worth needed to be proved to the lowly likes of me anyway. Still, it's good to see that he was everything I heard and more. And this isn't even supposed to be his best movie. So I'm looking forward to his others. 

However, the lead actor did voice work for The Tale of Princess Kaguya and the actor that portrayed the brother of the main character was also in the movie Departures. So, in hindsight, I suppose I didn't go into this movie completely without a few familiar faces. I just didn't know they were familiar to me while I was watching this movie. 

Nakadai Tatsuya plays our dying warlord Shingen and our double Kagemusha and does both admirably. Yamazaki Tsutomu played Shingen's brother Nobukado, but he also bore such a resemblance to the lead character that sometimes he would be a double for Shingen as well. 

While watching this I sometimes felt I was watching one actor in three roles rather than just two and that caused me some confusion, but it got easier to identify who was who once the warlord Shingen actually died. 

Of course, Shingen's death threatened to collapse his clan while they were at war with two other clans so he made everyone vow to keep his death a secret for three years. Hence the need for a double to step in since Shingen's brother couldn't be a double all the time. 

Shingen's enemies, Nobunaga and Ieyasu, are perplexed as to the behavior of Shingen's clan and suspect that something is amiss. But no matter how much they pry into the true condition of Shingen and no matter how much they suspect a double it seems that each time the double manages to channel the spirit of Shingen and prolong their search for the truth.

For a guy that was a criminal waiting to be crucified before he was tapped to be a double, his job is pretty amazing for what was asked of him. Or rather Nakadai Tatsuya's job at portraying both characters was so good that it was easy to believe in the double being able to channel the spirit of the warlord Shingen when it mattered most. It was also easy to believe in the double being a criminal that knew nothing of high society at first. The transformation of the double from low class to commanding respect like a warlord is probably best thing in this movie. 

The guy that played Nobunaga was pretty good, too. But that weird scene where he sang could have been avoided. 

Visually, the movie looked good. Maybe not quite on a Kubrick level, but I was a bit in awe by how everything felt like 1570's Japan. It was close to Kubrick greatness. The costumes were fantastic and the settings were well used. Everything was planned out minutely for this movie and it shows. Unlike modern Michael Bay films where it's all, "Let's just throw a bunch of random CGI shit on screen and see what sticks," Kagemusha succeeds in creating a spectacle because the guy in charge knows what he is doing and uses the most of what he has available. Kurosawa was like Francis Ford Coppola was back in the day before Coppola started sucking ass. 

Anyway, that concludes my review. I had planned on saying some more, but I've got a big ass novel to read, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex to finish, and a ton of manga to start on. Toodles. 

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