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Rating History

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto
15 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

An influential picture of a legendary character. The director precedes Akira Kurosawa and provides the template that is expanded upon by the latter film director. I believe that Kurosawa films are essential for any film lover, but if you fall for well done samurai movies, than this is a must see film. The characters, storytelling and camera techniques are incredibly well done for those who appreciate the historical development of films. This film came out at the same time as Seven Samurai and won the Academy Award for best foreign film. Musashi is a Japanese seventeenth century folk hero who has been depicted in numerous art forms throughout Japanese history.

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.

The Brothers Rico
2 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

An entertaining film noir as the genre was nearing its end. Here we had a look at the gangster-mob life from a different perspective. Richard Conte plays Eddie Rico who worked for his uncle Kubik. The film begins with an ominous phone call as Eddie is told he needs to take in a mob member who is hiding from the justice. Eddie complies although he wishes to not get involved. He is currently trying to adopt a child with his wife.

Eddie is called out by Kubik to find their missing brother Johnny. When Eddie runs into his brothers Gino and Johnny, he tells them to trust the mob and follow their instructions. Eddie believes that fidelity is still a virtue among the mob bosses. He is committed to the cause and will do anything to make sure his brothers continue to survive. As a noir, it moves from Florida to New York to Phoenix and California, becoming one of the few national noirs (there is none I can think of right now).

The film is shot in a minimalist fashion. Most of the sound is diegetic based on the scenes on screen. On several occasions, melodramatic music plays which actually tones down the suspense, but clearly it is a tool used by the director to deprive the viewer of expected non-diegetic music. Richard Conte and his wife are very playful in the early scenes and risqué for the period as they engage playfully in the bathroom. As a mob movie with an Italian background, it continues the early gangster movies but takes the angle of the people down the line who are at the mercy of those at the top.

The Brothers Rico is worthwhile as an entertaining movie if you like film-noir and tracing the developments of gangster films.