Search davidnmeyer.com
Film Review Cloud
13 Tzameti A Prophet Afghanistan Alan Sharp Aldous Huxley Aldrich Alex Garland Alphaville Altman Anthony Mann AntiChrist Antonioni Assazyez Baader Meinhof Badlands Baumbach Belmondo Ben Foster Bergman Best Films of 2008 Best Films of 2009m Jia Zhang-ke Best Films of 2010 Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Bielinksy Big Dead Place Bill Pullman Billy Name Binoche Black Narcissus Blleder Blue Crush Bob Dylan Bone Tomahawk Breillat Bresson Brick Brisseau Bruce Surtees Bullwinkle Carlos Casino Royale Celine and Julie Go Boating Chabrol Chaplin Charlie Haden Cherry Jones Chris Pine Clint Eastwood Coen Brothers Criterion Da Vinci Code Daisies Dante Spinotti Dassin David Watkins David Wilentz Days of Heaven Deadwood Dean & Britta Death Proof Deborah Kerr Delon Delueze Dennis Wilson Derek Jarman District 9 Don Cherry Douglas Sirk Dreyer Driver Dumot Dunst DW Griffith Eastwood El Aura Elizabeth Olsen Elliot Gould Emeric Pressburger Errol Morris Ex Machina Exiled Exodus Exterminating Angels Fata Morgana Fiennes Film Forum Fish Tank Fistful of Dollars For a Few Dollars More Freddy Herko French Frtiz Lang Gaby Rogers Galaxie 500 Ghost Town Gil Birmingham Godard Gomorrah Greenberg Greta Gerwig Grizzly Man Guadagnino Gus Van Zant Hackman Hank Williams Hara Kiri Help Me Eros Henry Fonda Herzog HHelp Me Eros Hitchcock; Vanity Fair Hong Sang-soo Hudson Hawk I Am Love I Know Where I'm Going ImamuraTarantino In Bruges In The Loop Insomnia Isabelle Huppert Jar City jazz Jeff Bridges Jennifer Warren Jimmy Stewart Joanna Hogg John Ford John Woo Johnny To Jose Giovanni Jude Law Julia Ormond Kael Kang-sheng Lee Ken Russell Kiiyoshi Kurosawa Kill! Kiss Me Deadly Kristen Stewart Kubrick Kwaidan LA LOI Lance Rocke Lars Trier Laurie Bird Layer Cake Le Mepris Le Samourai Lebanon Lenny Bruce Lessons of Darkness Lester Bangs Let The Right One In Linda Linda Linda Lino Ventura Lou Reed Lumet Maddie Hasson Maïwenn Malick Marc Abraham Marcel Ophuls Margot at the Wedding Marina Vlady Masculin feminin Mastroianni Mayersberg; Croupier McCabe & Mrs. Miller Mechanic Meeker Melancholia Melville Memories of Murder Michael Blodgett Michael Caine Michael Mann Michael Powell Michael Shannon Miroslav Slaboshptskiy Miyazaki Montand Monte Hellman Mopar Mungiu Nicholas Ray Nicholas Winding Refn Nico Night and the City Night Moves Nolte Nuri Bilge Ceylan Oliver Reed Olivier Assayas Ornette Coleman Oscar Isaacs OSS 117 Lost in Rio Pale Flower Paranoid Park Paris Passion of Joan of Arc Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid Paul Schrader Paul Verhoeven Pecinpah Penn Pierrot le fou Police Adjective Polisse Preston Sturges Pulp Fiction Pusher Pusher II Pusher III Raoul Coutard Raw Deal Raymond Chandler Red Riding Red Shoes Refn Restrepo Richard III Rififi Rivette Robert Altman Robert Graves Robin Hood robots Rock Hudson Rodney Crowell Rohmer Russ Myer Sailor Suit & Macine Gun Sam Raimi Samuel Fuller Samurai Rebellion Samurai Spy Sautet Schnabel science fiction Sergio Leone Seven Samurai Seventh Seal Sexy Beast Shotgun Stories Sjostrom Soderberg Spartacus Blood and Sand Spartacus: Blood and Sand State of Seige Sterling Hayden
Books By David N Meyer
  • Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music
    Twenty Thousand Roads: The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music
    by David N. Meyer
  • The 100 Best Films to Rent You've Never Heard Of: Hidden Treasures, Neglected Classics, and Hits From By-Gone Eras
    The 100 Best Films to Rent You've Never Heard Of: Hidden Treasures, Neglected Classics, and Hits From By-Gone Eras
    by David N. Meyer
  • A Girl and a Gun: The Complete Renter's Guide to Film Noir
    A Girl and a Gun: The Complete Renter's Guide to Film Noir
    by David N. Meyer
Social Links
Login

Entries in Kwaidan (1)

Thursday
Sep222011

CRITERION'S REBEL SAMURAI BOXED SET

by David Wilentz

Criterion’s Rebel Samurai box set features four gripping entries in the genre, all depicting men challenged by unscrupulous hierarchies struggling for power: Sword of the Beast; Samurai Spy; Samurai Rebellion; Kill! These four pictures offer alook at the second wave of post war samurai films and the key directors who emerged from that wave. Focusing on the perennial samurai dilemma of giri (duty) versus ninjo (morality) allowed each auteur to make his mark artistically despite genre convention. These directors were in a sense rebellious like the samurai of their films, and still very much aware of their duty.

Samurai, like cowboy heroes, lived and were defined by a code of honor and morality. But what does a samurai do when pushed to the limit of his convictions? After being tricked into killing the counselor of his clan, Gennosuke (Mikijiro Hira), the protagonist of Hideo Gosha’s Sword of the Beast (1965)faces his pursuers with the fervor of a cornered animal. Gosha’s film has an abundance of brisk paced, well choreographed chanbara (sword swinging) action but what really stands out is how his gritty, naturalistic style reflects the vehement angst with which this anti-hero reacts to the corrupt world around him.

Samurai Spy (1965) plays almost like a Saturday matinee serial with damsels in distress, ninjas leaping through the air, face- offs atop bridges and so forth. However, director Masahiro Shinoda, who brought us the lyrical yakuza noir Pale Flower, imbues his work with an impressionistic element through stylized montage and unusual framing, catapulting this yarn beyond formulaic conventions. All the films in this box are lusciously shot in B/W but Shinoda finds moments to utilize light and dark as a metaphor for the film’s diegetic as well as emotional complexities.

What makes the Criterion brand so transcendent, so necessary, is their ability to combine PBS-style austerity with an acute genre sensibility. Authors of the attached essays include Japanese film luminaries like Donald Ritchie (A Hundred Years of Japanese Film) and Alain Silver (The Samurai Film) as well as Patrick Macias, author of Tokyo scope, a study of Japanese cult and trash films. Masaki Kobayashi’s Samurai Rebellion (1967), more so than the other films included, has the classic and prestigious feel that western audiences may be more accustomed to (being familiar with Kurosawa’s oeuvre or Kobayashi’s Hara Kiri and Kwaidan). The drama is Shakespearean, building slowly but intensely, perfectly mirrored by the extraordinary restraint that Toshiro Mifune’s character exhibits. Only in the final reel do the film’s dramatic tensions finally explode in a barrage of physical action. And do they ever explode.

Kihachi Okamoto offers the other extreme of the samurai film with Kill! (1968). All archetypes are exaggerated to the max, allowing a chaotic send-up of the chanbara genre. Tatsuya Nakadai gleefully wallows in the comic side of his ronin character, a stark contrast to the characterization of pure evil that he delivered in Okamoto’s Sword of Doom. The convoluted plot gets a little hard to follow (interestingly it was based on the same novel that served as the source for Kurosawa’s Sanjuro) but the odd assortment of characters and Spaghetti Western style abandon manage to bring it to a rollicking finish; thus making Kill! the perfect capper to the set.