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Jigokumon (Gate of Hell) Reviews

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August 5, 2014
Gate Of Hell is quite a film, to say the least. Sure, there's the fact that it was the first color Japanese film, but it's also a film where despite a deceptively simple premise, it holds a great deal more in intellectual value, and also having a lot to say about the nature of human beings when obsession and desires consumes every last facet of our lives, even if it threatens to destroy the object of desire.

During a traitorous rebellion, the royal family needs to be evacuated, so to fool the invaders, a woman named Kesa, volunteers to be the Ladyship's double, while being escorted by some samurai, including one named Moritoh.

The rebellion ends up being crushed, and Moritoh is considered to be a hero and he is offered anything he wants as a reward. He wants to marry Kesa, but this particular request cannot be honored, as she is already married to a man named Wataru. This infuriates Moritoh, and he refuses to take no for an answer and seeks endlessly to win her love while also deviously plotting to get Wataru out of the picture.

The story is familiar, and on the surface, is simple.. But, it's the way that the film presents it, and the way that is written and performed, that makes the story a great deal more than what it would seem at first thought. There are many themes to be processed: obsession, desire, greed, and other dark themes, but it is also surprising in themes like devotion, true love, sacrifice, and other themes. It covers a wide spectrum of human thoughts and emotions, both dark and malicious, but also how goodness and devotion to the one you love can stand in the face of terrifying evil that threatens to destroy everyone. The story is quite compelling, and also tragic and emotional.

The acting is superb, especially from Machiko Kyo as Lady Kesa and Kazuo Hasegawa as Moritoh. Machiko Kyo is a sympathetic and wonderful character, while Kazuo Hasegawa does an amazing job of playing the menacing Moritoh as his mental state slowly deteriorates when the object of his desire rejects him over and over again until there is nothing but the obsession as his goal in sight. These two are what made the film what it was in terms of storytelling, as they successfully balance between good and evil elements of human nature.

Gate Of Hell is a superb drama that definitely deserved the numerous awards that it won when it first released. This makes it ever more questionable as to why it took so damn long for it to get released on a home video format (So much so, that they had to restore all the colors and footage because the footage was so faded and old from not being used for so long). Whatever may be the reason for this, we finally get to see the masterpiece in all its glory. It's not just a beautiful color film, but it's also an exceptional drama and among the greatest Japanese films ever made. If you love a good drama, Gate Of Hell is something worth seeing.
July 27, 2014
Shot in a resplendent Eastmancolor, Gate of Hell, the first Japanese movie to be filmed in color, extracts poetry from the misery of man and the tragic destiny of tormented souls that recognize how oppressive feelings can be. You've rarely seen colors come alive in quite this way, very carefully matched against one another.
Every frame of every shot is simply a formidable Japanese print. It is pure beauty.
Its opening battle scenes partially shrouded behind billowing veils and banners, and the majestic flight of the troops from the burning imperial palace providing some of the most remarkable images.
Developed in slow pace, this movie is 53 years old, and it still sparkles Those were the days when doing the right thing was the expected norm. All those who transgress their loyalties, and are beaten or unmasked, are sent to hell through its gat
June 3, 2014
Beautiful color cinematography.
rickrudge
February 10, 2014
Gate of Hell (1953)

The first colored Japanese movies that was ever shown in the U.S. This film got Best Costume Design in a color film at the Oscars and an honorary Best Foreign Language Film (they didn't yet have that category). Although it's a very beautiful, colorful film, it's far from my favorite Samurai film.

This story happens during the 1160 Meiji Rebellion. As rebels storm a Daimyo's residence, an effort is planned to cause a diversion. One of the Ladies in Waiting, Kesa (Machiko Kyo) volunteered to act as the Lord's wife so that the Lord and Ladies could make their escape. Her cart is guarded by samurai Morito Enda (Kazuo Hasegawa) who fights gallantly to protect her.

Morito is so disappointed that his brother is part of the rebels, he makes every effort to help Lord Kiyomori Itsukushima (Koreya Senda) back to power. As a reward, the Lord promises to grant Morito a wish. Morito wishes to wed the Lady Kesa. When Lord Itsukushima finds out the Kesa is married to another samurai, Wataru Watanabe (Isao Yamagata), he backs away from his promise, but Morito will not relent, and begins stalking poor Kesa.
February 2, 2014
another well crafted historical costume drama from japan
October 20, 2013
A simple love story with subtle message at the end, I don't understand what's the big fuzz about this Samurai drama.
October 1, 2013
Gate of Hell (AKA Jigokumon) is an effective drama set in twelfth-century Japan. When a young soldier falls in love with a woman, later finding out that she is married, his obsession and the lengths that he will go to to win her love lead to the ultimate tragedy. The film won Oscars for best foreign-language film and best costume design, both of which were richly-deserved. The film is a beautiful tapestry of work in both its look and design. The landscapes and the costumes are all remarkably rich with color and detail. The story itself and the dynamics of it still work, although I would argue that it doesn't really pick up steam until about halfway through. Not that any of it is boring, but the real thrust of the story isn't itself very obvious or concrete right away. Regardless, it's a beautiful film and one that I'm glad has been properly restored.
ZACHO D

Super Reviewer

September 27, 2013
A really solid flick with a surprise twist. A great highlight from Japan's golden era.
June 10, 2013
Gate of Hell is gloriously colorful and well shot. The films themes of love and trust in an honorable society are somewhat critiqued which makes for an interesting concept and ending.
June 4, 2013
A film that, for me, is all beautiful surface level but has no depth in its story. On the outset, the plot is interesting; a samurai falls for a married woman in feudal Japan and descends into psychopathy in his desire to have her. Director Teinosuke Kinugasa painted this film in gorgeous Eastman color, a result that has had critics rediscovering and labeling this as one of the prettiest looking films of the nineteen fifties, and I cannot deny that the film looks downright beautiful. There is a massive and thoughtful color palette on display here that makes even the dark nighttime scenes heavy with saturation. Unfortunately, the execution of the story is an exercise in tedium. It starts out committing what is, to me, one of the biggest sins in cinematic storytelling- it zips through history and drops name after name of characters that won't have much if anything to do with the small tale which is about to be told. After ten minutes of trying to keep straight many battles and family lines and samurais and royalties, we zoom into this small war waged on a happy marriage by this lonely and frustrated obsessive man. To be clear, it isn't this central plot I have a problem with; to me, the best films are made out of the most confined and simple story lines, much like this one. Why it needed to be buried under layers and layers of historical specifics, however, is beyond me. The actors are all pretty good, especially Kazuo Hasegawa (who plays the central obsessive), though despite their best efforts, the characters aren't drawn very well and end up coming off as wishy-washy and contradictory. A film that is this beautiful visually is never a waste, but beyond aesthetics this is merely hollow filmmaking.
May 26, 2013
Actually this is a very dull jidaigeki from Kinugasa (who isn't in the pantheon of Japanese directors) but it is outstanding for one thing: its color photography and accompanying art design. Feudal Japan could not have been this colorful with purple, neon green, and satiny pink everywhere. Some of the compositions with geometric swathes of these colors criss-crossing the screen are incredible. But the story, about a samurai who lusts for a married woman, is plain and rather unmotivated.
May 20, 2013
2.5: Not my favorite Japanese samurai picture, but certainly an interesting exploration of the power of lust and obsession. I'd say it's only worth it for cineastes though.
PantaOz
PantaOz

Super Reviewer

February 3, 2012
This is a real art work, directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa. It tells the story of a samurai (Kazuo Hasegawa) who tries to marry a woman (Machiko Kyō) he rescues, only to discover that she is already married to someone else. This is the first Japanese color film to be released outside Japan, and it was noticed: won the Palme d'Or grand prize award at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival, a 1955 Academy Honorary Award for "Best Foreign Language Film first released in the United States during 1954", along with the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Color, and the 1954 New York Film Critics Circle Award for "Best Foreign Language Film".

Japanese cinematography has its own early pearls, and this is the huge one of the 1953. A story which develops so smoothly that there is no other way but to follow it to the end - and enjoy in that process. I'll have to say few words about some of the scenes and the acting but I am not an expert in the social behaviour and interaction in the samurai society, and I'll just accept that such a behaviour was normal at the time. A story of love and tragic ending, as well as one of the loyalty, lust and reasoning - so complex that I'll probably suggest a second viewing to understand fully all the layers of it.
ahhh1989
July 3, 2009
One of the most rewarding films I've ever seen.
The M

Super Reviewer

February 7, 2009
note 2 self: remember
drwho9
December 2, 2008
A classic, not out on Netflix yet. DARN!
Byron B

Super Reviewer

March 1, 2007
This movie has a little sword play, but is primarily a drama. A group of rebels try to take over the government. A loyal samurai saves a woman who was sent out as a decoy disguised as the princess. He is awed by her beauty, and when they see each other later after the rebels' attempt was stopped, she thanks him for his valiant efforts. To our eyes, it doesn't look like she was too forward, but just by speaking to this man she does not know she may have said too much. It turns out she is married to a city official. The samurai falls in love and becomes obsessed. Not aware that she is taken he asks for her hand as his reward for fighting loyally. He becomes embarrassed and further obsessed when he finds out she is not available. The samurai pleads with the woman to leave her husband, but when she insists on remaining faithful, he decides he must remove the husband from the picture. This does not work out as planned though when the woman takes responsibility for having started the trouble. Though the culture is of a different place and time, there is nothing particularly foreign about the themes, relationships, or emotions portrayed here.
January 23, 2008
a beautiful film that i'm sure was really great for the time, but became quite predictable.
Woody
December 7, 2007
What would you do for the one that you love? How about tell them you love them.

This is a (Academy Award Winning) simple tale of treachery, love, sacrifice, and devotion. Beautifully filmed and an excellent score (if you like Japanese music).

This is a subtitled film, but there is not a great deal of dialog in it, so don't worry about reading a movie -- and the letters are LARGE.

I recommend it if you get a chance to see it.
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