Zoku Miyamoto Musashi: Ichij˘ji no Kett˘ (Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple) (Swords of Doom) Reviews
Mifune's character becomes master of two blades as the real Miyamoto was and the very first scene when he fights a man with a chain and sickle. Once he defeats the man he is told that he is too strong. His personal enlightenment continues through this film.
This is the second film in the Samurai Trilogy about legendary Japanese swordsman, Musashi Miyamoto (Toshiro Mifune). Toho Studios filmed this in color but a lot of the scenes are studio shot. There is enough photography of the beautiful nature outside though, and the beautiful culture of ancient Japan is showcased.
Although this is a samurai film, there really isn't as much sword play as you would expect. Instead, there is a lot of melodrama between all of the women in Musashi's life, trying to track him down.
There's innocent Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa) who has been waiting for Musashi at a bridge outside of town. There is also the less innocent/fallen dove courtier Akemi (Mariko Okada) who has never forgotten Musashi but is being pimped out by her mother, Oko (Mitsuko Mito). Musashi's old buddy Honiden Matahachi (Rentaro Mikuni) plays the music at Oko's and has been busy drinking his regrets.
Musashi travels around the country, practicing his sword skills by challenging various Samurai and fencing schools. He's begun to get a name for himself. The old monk, who has mentored him has told him that he's too strong, and too angry in his swordsmanship; that he must soften that anger with compassion and work towards being more Genteel and noble.
Musashi has wanted to duel the head sensei of one fencing school and has managed to hurt and even kill some of the students in duels. The school has not been willing to let the sensei duel with him and have even tried ambushing him whenever they could including the finally at the Ichijoji Temple.
A skilled samurai, Kojiro Sasaki (Koji Tsuruta) has noticed Musashi's skill and would like to duel him to become the best swordsman in Japan. Naturally, this won't happen until the third film in the trilogy.
One thing that I would like to comment on is that the Criterion Collection has done a great job bringing these films back out into the public. The one complaint that I have is that there are not any extras to the DVDs. There are only the trailers for the films.
In this film we see the tragedy of Matahachi in his relationship fleshed out. In addition, the love triangle between Akemi, Otsu and Musashi continues. Musashi wants to make a name for himself and ends up seeking out the master of the Yoshioka clan for a duel. The students of the master continue to try to ambush and kill off Musashi. We meet a new character that will be more fully developed in the third movie: Kojiro Sasaki. Kojiro is a ronin as well seeking out to become the best samurai of the land. He is interested in Musashi's growth as a legend so that he can face him off later and gain an even greater reputation.
The film is shot at 1:33:1 aspect ratio which creates shots with greater depth within the composition. The position and use of the camera is done masterfully. One of the most memorable scenes is when Musashi leads his gang of attackers into the muddy rice fields. It creates great tension and memorable fights. Inagaki is also very skillful in setting up great scenes, like a duel with snow falling and then cutting to another simple scene that takes place after the fight. He teases the audience and leaves it wanting for more.
One of the most surprising aspects of the film is how forward the female characters are portrayed. They are not simple, obedient women, but have strong personalities and own their sexuality. Toshiro Mifune plays the character flawlessly and displays his commanding presence as a skilled swordsman that is later perfected within the great Kurosawa films.
The first movie is being really used as a movie to set up things, while this second movie is mostly being used to build up to its climax that will occur in the third movie. Epic.