Miyamoto Musashi (Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto) (The Legend of Musashi) (Master Swordsman) Reviews
Color color and color and set design bring Samurai ear Japan to life.
It is a movie with a simple message but delivered in such a way that nothing is missing: from depth of contemplating moral dilemmas, to love, meaning of life, urge to explore, fighting (very realistic - no flying swordsmen here)... it is a real smorgasbord of subjects! The story starts following the battle of Sekigahara (1600 AD), where Takezo (Toshirō Mifune) and his friend Matahachi (Rentaro Mikuni) find themselves on the losing side. Instead of the grand victory and glory Takezo had anticipated, he finds himself a hunted fugitive... I won't be retelling the full story, but at the end film shows Takezo being granted his samurai name 'Musashi Miyamoto' leaving to search for enlightenment!
Superb acting with some minor editing glitches and very enjoyable directing of the best cinematography at the time! Traditional music won't win too many fans but for me worked well... Recommended for everyone with real interest in film history!
This is a sweeping epic detailing the career of (real life) master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi. His story has been told in dozens of films, but this is the most famous one (overseas anyway). Moreso than any other Japanese samurai film I've seen, this has a real feeling of a Hollywood epic. Indeed, it is often referred to as the Japanese answer to 'Gone with the Wind' and was tied with 'Seven Samurai' as the most expensive film ever made in Japan at the time
. It begins in the early days of Musashi as he leaves his village to join the great Battle of Sekigahara (on the losing side). From there, he goes from outlaw to prisoner to samurai. Along with his pursuit of drawing ever closer to perfection, he must deal with the betrayal of his childhood friend, navigate the politics of the newly founded Tokugawa shogunate, fight in duel after duel, and come to terms with his feelings for the love of his life.
Toshiro Mifune in the title role is awesome, and convincingly shows the change between wild dog to cool and collected enlightenment between three films. His foil, Sasaki Kojiro, is a worthy adversary. Cool and charismatic, he is the opposite of Musashi and the final duel between them is a worthy conclusion to the trilogy.
The cinematography is gorgeous, with vibrant colors bringing out the colorfulness of the garb and banners but also the muted natural colors of the wilderness.
If you enjoy films like 'Ben Hur' or 'El Cid', you may want to give this a shot.
EDIT: Okay, for some reason Flixster (what the hell, Byron-one-of-the-Flixster guys) said that I reviewed this recently. I didn't review this recently. In fact, I haven't watched this movie in a long time, so I feel weird with it just popping up like this. But I guess I'll review it now because it looks like I copped out on reviewing this movie. (When I first started, I didn't really review movies so much as give them a rating and then a quick blurb about my experiece with it. For an example of the quick blurb, look at what I wrote up top.)
The Samurai movies really are just one big epic story. It is hard to review them individually because it is just reviewing the first third of a film. (Peter Jackson fans, you've just been vindicated.) But this is where we get the most amount of character out of the trilogy. Have you seen Yojimbo? (I will be re-reviewing this movie in the next few days, so look for that.) Yojimbo, the character, is kind of a bad ass because that's what samurai are: badasses. Their the baddest of bad-asses. I love that. But this movie doesn't really allow for that assumption. This movie is based on a real character. We all want to be that hero, but the harder we want to be that hero, the more nerdy and pathetic we come off. This is that story. This is the boy who wanted to be a man. It's the Smallville of the samurai scene.
Visually, these movies are just fantastic and fit grandly within the genre. The samurai story really is its own genre and this is one of the better ones out there. There's this really brutal thread that plays through the three films that tug on the heartstrings and that's really nice to see. That's probably what separates these films from the other samurai movies out there. This is a samurai tale with heart. Yeah, there's other character samurai tales out there, but they usually involve revenge and silence. No time for personal needs except for that quest for vengeance. This is a tale about growing up. Now, I'm not saying that in the terms of Stand By Me growing up, but it is about adulthood nonetheless. Also, it's that feeling of being truly responsible when you know that you are never truly what you want to be and that there is always room for improvement.
I don't feel like I could review this movie justly beyond this point because I am far too removed from my original viewing of this movie. I would definitely recommend watching it because I remember loving these films (as shown by the four-and-a-half stars I gave it at the time.) Hopefully these glitches don't keep up because I don't have time to re-review all the movies I've ever seen. Too bad I'm OCD and I feel llike I have to.
Toshiro takes on the role with complete mastery. It begins with him up on a tree idolizing the marching warriors through his small village. He goes off to war to make a name for himself. His childhood friend decides to follow along despite his engagement to Otsu. In war they encounter defeat and escape to improve. They meet a mother and daughter out in the country who help them heal. Ultimately, Musashi separates from his friend and returns to his town where he becomes a fugitive.
As part of a trilogy, this film sets up the stage for the next two, but it also stands very much on its own. Musashi begins as an impetuous young man and the film ends when he has matured. One drawback is that we only get glimpses into the character over long periods of time. Musashi comes off as an intense character, obsessed with fame, even over the company of women. His treatment of women appears to be an honorable characteristic or it could be a reality for someone who has not properly developed certain social skills. There is a certain sympathy that the viewer develops with regard to such a character where fame at all costs stunts the quintessential human drive for companionship and friendship. He becomes a loner that no one can access. The character development from a naive beginning with indiscriminate fighting to a mature more restrained character is engaging. In this film you also have the love triangle that will continue through the subsequent films.
The director Inagaki captures incredibly will the local country side scenery full of beautiful mountains. The most memorable scene is when Musashi is hung from a tree by the Zen monk as a way of teaching a lesson. The Zen monk is a memorable character, but I wished that more could have been developed with the Japanese Zen background context. Ultimately, Musashi emerges as a confident man ready to accomplish his goal of becoming a samurai with a better structured agenda. On the side, the viewer is left to contemplate the fates of Otsu, and Musashi's friend Matahachi. A great film that looks into the character side of Musashi whereas the next two installments will make great use of traditional samurai duels.