Author Topic: Kagemusha (1980)  (Read 1611 times)

Offline Antares

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Kagemusha (1980)
« on: May 02, 2010, 03:42:49 AM »

Year: 1980
Film Studio: Toho, 20th Century Fox
Genre: Drama, War
Length: 180 Min.

Akira Kurosawa (1910)

Masato Ide (1922)...Writer
Akira Kurosawa (1910)...Writer

Akira Kurosawa (1910)
Akira Kurosawa (1910)
Tomoyuki Tanaka (1910)

Takao Saitô (1920)
Shôji Ueda (1938)

Shinichirô Ikebe (1943)...Composer

Tatsuya Nakadai (1932) as Shingen Takeda / Kagemusha
Tsutomu Yamazaki (1936) as Nobukado Takeda
Kenichi Hagiwara (1950) as Katsuyori Takeda
Jinpachi Nezu (1947) as Sohachiro Tsuchiya
Hideji Ôtaki (1925) as Masakage Yamagata
Daisuke Ryû (1957) as Nobunaga Oda
Masayuki Yui (1947) as Ieyasu Tokugawa
Kaori Momoi (1952) as Otsuyanokata

       Thank God for the Criterion Company! For years I had waited for a company to final release Kagemusha on DVD. I am a huge fan of Akira Kurosawa, but I had never had a chance to see this movie. Though many critics had deemed this film as a minor effort and the warm-up to his epic masterpiece Ran, after finally viewing it, I have to strongly disagree with this opinion. From a visual standpoint this is Kurosawa’s most beautiful film. The years of imposed exile from the Japanese film industry and the lack of funds to produce his pictures, had forced Kurosawa to commit his entire movie to a series of painted storyboards while he waited for financial backing. The attention to detail that is conveyed in these storyboards is meticulously transposed onto the big screen by Kurosawa using brushstrokes dipped from a palette comprised of every color imaginable.

       Kagemusha tells the tale of the medieval warlord Shingen, who spares the life of a thief who has been caught looting his clan. Shingen notices that the thief is an identical match in appearance to him and realizes that this man could be useful in deceiving his enemies. He instructs his brother to start training the thief, so that in time the thief will have all of the warlord’s mannerisms and actions confined to memory. No sooner has the training process begun when the warlord is mortally wounded by a sniper’s bullet. Before he dies, Shingen instructs his clan leaders to use the thief as his double for three years so that a smooth transition of power can be made from the dying leader to his son, the rightful, but immature and inexperienced heir.

       Tatsuya Nakadai plays the dual roles of Shingen and the thief most admirably, but I think the reason that this film has been largely forgotten, is that the role is really more suited to Toshirô Mifune. Nakadai would portray both characters using a refined style of Noh theater method, while Mifune would have brought a more wizened air of regality to the Shingen character, and a more comical side to the thief. I also think that a lot of people simply dismiss this film purely because Mifune is not in it, and this is wrong, for it is one of Kurosawa’s forgotten masterpieces. Although it doesn’t rate as highly as Shichinin no samurai, Ikiru, or Ran, it is comparable in stature to Rashômon, Yojimbo, or Akahige.

       One last note; this would be the final film for one of Kurosawa’s most dedicated actors, Takashi Shimura. He would play the warlords father in the film, a small but fitting ending to a career that spanned over fifty years. Shimura would be looked upon by critics, film fans, and his peers, as one of the greatest character actors in film history.

Review Criterion
5 Stars - The pinnacle of film perfection and excellence.
4 ½ Stars - Not quite an immortal film, yet a masterpiece in its own right.
4 Stars - Historically important film, considered a classic.
3 ½ Stars - An entertaining film that’s fun or engaging to watch.
3 Stars – A good film that’s worth a Netflix venture.
2 ½ Stars - Borderline viewable.
2 Stars – A bad film that may have a moment of interest.
1 ½ Stars – Insipid, trite and sophomoric, and that's its good points.
1 Star – A film so vacuous, it will suck 2 hours from the remainder of your life.
½ Star - A gangrenous and festering pustule in the chronicles of celluloid.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2010, 06:05:51 PM by Antares »