Death of a Tea Master (Sen no Rikyu)

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For those unfamiliar with its deep meaning, the Japanese tea ceremony appears to be a long, incredibly boring, basically uneventful ritual process. In contrast, for many of its practitioners it offers the key to understanding how to live life in a meaningful manner, and is in itself a refreshment for the spirit. The tea master Rikyu was a key figure in the evolution of the ceremony, and his teaching lineage continues to the present day. In 1591, as a result of a difference of opinion with the ruling warlord of Japan, Hideyoshi Toyotomi (Shinsuke Ashida), tea ceremony grand master Rikyu (Toshiro Mifune) was forced to commit suicide. This story is told in a series of flashbacks, as Honkakubo, Rikyu's closest disciple, contemplates the death of his master and his associates, and seeks to clarify his understanding of those events. In this film these suicides are interpreted as a clash between spirituality and materialism. In Rikyu, the other 1989 film about the tea master, his political differences with the general are brought forward. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

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