Sunday, May 2, 2010

Love and Honor

Although it was made recently, Yôji Yamada's Bushi no ichibun has a very old feel to it. Even though the film's characters seldom contain their true feelings and thoughts, this doesn't mean that the film can't make its point.

This adaptation of Shûhei Fujisawa is set in feudal Japan. Shinnojo Mimura (Takuya Kimura), a lower-rank samurai, is one of a feudal lord's "poison tasters". This means that before the lord eats his meal, Shinnojo and other men taste it. Since Shinnojo finds his job dull, he tells his wife Kayo (Rei Dan) that he wants to open a kendo (fencing) school accessible to any child notwithstanding the caste they belong to. Unfortunately, Shinnojo is struck by an illness after he had tasted for the lord a sashimi made from shell fish. In fact, because this shell fish is out of season (the cooks didn't know it) it can harm anybody who consumes it. As a result of that, it's revealed that the toxin from the food blinded him.

From this point, the film has no difficulty to show how Shinnojo feels useless to his wife. After all, in feudal Japan, being incapable to earn a living was very shameful for a married man. However, although he senses the loss of a huge part of his male’s identity, the film incredibly shows through the character of Takuya Kimura’s (2046) internalized bitterness that the love from his wife is pretty much the only reason why he clings to his life if we leave the stipend given to him by Lord Shimada (Mitsugoro Bando) out of the equation. Moreover, it's also his envy to defend his individual honour that Shinnodo is willing to protect his wife even though he's blind.

Finally, there's no doubt that the film is one of the few I've seen that elegantly combines two of the most recurrent themes in Asian cinema: honor and love. However, while Love and Honor has a powerful script, the execution of the storyline lacks energy. Indeed, this can be seen through the slow pace in the film's first half.

Rating: 3.5/5

Origin:Japan (2006)
Length:121 minutes
Screenplay:Yôji Yamada, Emiko Hiramatsu and Ichirô Yamamoto
Director:Yôji Yamada
Starring:Takuya Kimura, Rei Dan, Mitsugoro Bando and Takashi Sasano

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