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My favorite film of the trilogy. Kojiro and Miyamoto become very interesting.
Samurai II is easily the best of the trilogy. The fight scene in the rice paddies alone would have made this an instant classic. Another great performance by Toshiro Mifune.
The influence of this film is undeniable. Countless films, from Kill Bill to Star Wars, have borrowed and paid homage to this classic. It's worth watching just for its importance in film history.
Another great entry into this series. The women in Musashis life though... oh boy.
Hiroshi Inagaki's 1955 film "Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple" picks up where the last one ended as Musashi leaves the Priest in search of Enlightenment and finding disappointment with the Samurai's lost values. Toshiro Mifune returns, as does many cast members from the first film in the "Samurai Trilogy." The only exception is that Rentaro Mikune is replaced by Sachio Sakai in the role Matahachi. This film isn't as lush or beautiful as the first film but more bleak and cold. The violence is there, but there's also a love triangle involved between Musashi and Otsu (Kaoru Yachigusa) and Musashi and Akemi (Mariko Okada). But both women ultimately find out that he has only one love and that's the sword.
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.
The best part of the trilogy! Toshiro Mifune is nearly godlike here, with his majestic performance, reeking of aura. Brilliant!
Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955)
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.
The middle film of the trilogy finds Musashi Miyamoto wandering feudal Japan and increasing his inestimable skill as a swordsman. The plot focuses on his attempts to duel the master of a martial arts school, while avoiding the students attempts to eliminate him as a threat. The film also sets up the final film by advancing the love triangle introduced in the first film and introduces Miyamoto's main rival in the final film. A marvellous action/adventure film that looks magnificent on Criterion's Blu-Ray.
Strong second instalment to the trilogy, and while it's not the main focus of the film, it highlights the difficult position of women in Japanese society of the time.
The follow-up to 1954's excellent Musashi Miyamoto, Duel at Ichijoji Temple picks up the story several years later, as an exiled orphan-turned-swordsman gains notoriety via a bloody tour of fatal duels. His reputation precedes him in returning to his hometown, where old rivals of both a violent and intimate nature await. This is a film about personal growth - specifically that of the samurai himself, who struggles to learn the key concepts of what his new life actually entails and where the rift lies between honor and reverence. We're never quite sure if Musashi takes this lesson to heart, particularly since he's so keen to maintain an impenetrable outer facade in almost every situation. It's a tricky role for period veteran Toshiro Mifune, who struggles with the more nuanced, flatter aspects of the character. In the previous episode, with the fires of young-adulthood to toy with, he excelled. Here, faced with the malaise of mid-life and the accompanying questions of his own being, his performance is far less sublime. The plot, cramped with too many faces and several seemingly-pointless subplots, does him no favors in dancing around the issues and repeating itself on more than one occasion. This could have been an excellent one-act show, and the final half-hour could still stand alone as precisely that. It lacks the gumption of its predecessor, however, and too often cuts away just as the action is getting good.