Hidden Blade (15)

Film

Romance

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Time Out says

Tue Nov 29 2005

Most famous as the helmer of the Japanese movie institution ‘Tora-san’ – a 48-film series of nostalgic comedy-dramas that ran from 1969 to 1995 – the septuagenarian Yamada Yoji is evidently not afraid of repeating himself. His latest samurai melodrama, the highly enjoyable ‘Hidden Blade’, reworks many of the same themes and narrative forms of his recent Oscar-nominated ‘Twilight Samurai’, but it’s so fluently directed, well acted and emotionally satisfying that its lack of originality can be forgiven.

‘Mystery Train’’s Masatoshi Nagase gives a dignified and moving performance as Munezo, the honorable samurai of a backwater town who has carried a torch from late childhood for the lower-caste Kie (Takako Matsu), since married into a merchant family of Dickensian meanness. Yamada elaborates the changing military stance of the 1860s Tokugawa Shogunate – lots of comic business involving English rifles and Dutch cannon – but his heart lies in the distended romantic entanglement of Munezo and Kie, pushing the couple’s portrait of emotionally self-denying forebearance to the edge of Sirkian melodrama.

On the whole, however, Yamada does not succumb to stylistic flourish. Mutsuo Naganuma’s fine period cinematograpy is typically unostentatious and the climactic, cathartic action sequences are notable for their own form of realism: when Munezo is instructed by a corrupt senior retainer to kill an old friend, sentenced to a fate worse than hara-kiri for his Western-ising views, their confrontation is filmed to emphasise our quiet hero’s deep ambivalence toward violence. It’s old-fashioned fare, certainly, but only Isao Tomita’s string-based score rams that home.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Dec 2, 2005

Duration:

131 mins

Cast and crew

Director:

Yoji Yamada

Editor:

Iwao Ishii

Cinematography:

Mutsuo Naganuma

Music:

Isao Tomita

Producer:

Hiroshi Fukazawa

Screenwriter:

Yoshitaka Asama

Cast:

Tomoko Tabata, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Takako Matsu, Masatoshi Nagase

Art Director:

Yoshinobu Nishioka

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Thompson Twins

The Hidden Blade is a heart-warming film depicting the late Edo period in Japan(mid 19thcentury) when the Tokugawa Shogun period of the samurai was coming to an end.Munezo Kategiri is a lower caste samurai who follows principle rather than protocol.His father, a public official ,committed hara-kiri to take the blame for something that happened leaving his family poor.Katagiri has two chiefrelationships, one with Kie, the maid who has worked with his family to gain pre-marital experience.He loves her but they are of different castes,so she is married to a merchant.The other relationship is with Hamaza, his friend,brother of the sword,who he trained to use the samurai sword with under Master Toda,who is now a farmer.Hamaza goes off to another province of the Shogunate. Feudalism and its end are portrayed in Yamada's film(as in Twilight Samurai-a film from a similar source).The film shows Katagiri living according to certain codes of honour e.g. in his rescuing of Kie from a cruel marriage and nursing her back to health, and in his revenge on the Chief Retainer with his use of the `hidden blade' for his treatment of Hazama's wife.He also is told he must fight his friend Hazama in a duel(using a secret move learned from Master Toda).Hazama's wife commits hara-kiri because of being compromised by the Chief Retainer,but her honour is restored by Kategiri.All the time this is going on we see the introduction of western weaponry, muskets, cannon, drills which are the new techniques of warfare that are driving out the samurai codes of behaviour and the honour of fighting like a samurai. There is a certain amount of comedy as country bumkins of a certain age are taught these new techniques by the young trainer. Hazama,due to his part in reforming the Shogunate becomes a criminal who escapes from prison and has to accept either hara-kiri or a duel.At the back of it all though isthe tender, beautiful love story of Kategiri and Kie,the overcoming of certain outmoded traditions,to secure that love.The leads are great.Catch up on the last in the trilogy too: Love and Honour.

Thompson Twins

The Hidden Blade is a heart-warming film depicting the late Edo period in Japan(mid 19thcentury) when the Tokugawa Shogun period of the samurai was coming to an end.Munezo Kategiri is a lower caste samurai who follows principle rather than protocol.His father, a public official ,committed hara-kiri to take the blame for something that happened leaving his family poor.Katagiri has two chiefrelationships, one with Kie, the maid who has worked with his family to gain pre-marital experience.He loves her but they are of different castes,so she is married to a merchant.The other relationship is with Hamaza, his friend,brother of the sword,who he trained to use the samurai sword with under Master Toda,who is now a farmer.Hamaza goes off to another province of the Shogunate. Feudalism and its end are portrayed in Yamada's film(as in Twilight Samurai-a film from a similar source).The film shows Katagiri living according to certain codes of honour e.g. in his rescuing of Kie from a cruel marriage and nursing her back to health, and in his revenge on the Chief Retainer with his use of the `hidden blade' for his treatment of Hazama's wife.He also is told he must fight his friend Hazama in a duel(using a secret move learned from Master Toda).Hazama's wife commits hara-kiri because of being compromised by the Chief Retainer,but her honour is restored by Kategiri.All the time this is going on we see the introduction of western weaponry, muskets, cannon, drills which are the new techniques of warfare that are driving out the samurai codes of behaviour and the honour of fighting like a samurai. There is a certain amount of comedy as country bumkins of a certain age are taught these new techniques by the young trainer. Hazama,due to his part in reforming the Shogunate becomes a criminal who escapes from prison and has to accept either hara-kiri or a duel.At the back of it all though isthe tender, beautiful love story of Kategiri and Kie,the overcoming of certain outmoded traditions,to secure that love.The leads are great.Catch up on the last in the trilogy too: Love and Honour.