Samurai Trilogy 1: Musashi Miyamoto (1954)

Samurai Trilogy 1: Musashi Miyamoto, is the definition of a classic Japanese Samurai movie.  Presented by the Criterion Collection, this series follows the historical life of Musahi Miyamoto in 17th century feudal Japan.   This film established many of the conventional benchmarks followed by samurai cinema but it is far from predictable and at times can be a bit confusing to follow until the conclusion.  An important element to Japanese culture, the samurai is often portrayed as a lone hero with deep moral convictions and this film is no exception.

Musashi Miyamoto, is the story of Takezo, a man who grew up as an orphan in a small village who convinces his friend to leave his fiancé and mother to go off to war in an attempt to become a respected and feared samurai warrior.  After the war runs its course, Takezo and his friend find themselves on the losing the side and soon end up living divergent lives.  While Takezo’s friend marries a widow with whom he had sought shelter with, Takezo himself continues on his course to become a samurai.  Unfortunately, Takezo is soon accused of being a traitor by his home village and they relentlessly pursue to capture and imprison him.  Finally, the village monk captures Takezo through promises of mercy and fellowship but, Takezo soon comes to realize that he may have been duped.  The film continues on in a similar fashion with an ending that leaves you wishing for more.

Although credit goes to the Criterion Collection for releasing this masterpiece of Japanese cinema, it is disappointing that the quality of the film is very poor.  Released in 1954, Musahsi Miyamoto must have been remarkable to see in a theatre.  Unfortunately, the DVD release of this film is marred by unpredictable shifty color changes, poor contrast and overly dark nighttime scenes that make it near impossible for the viewer to ascertain what is taking place.  By all means, don’t let this stop you from seeing this film as it is required watching for anyone seriously interested not just in samurai cinema but  Japanese cinema as a whole.  Just as the western is an important historical element to American films, the samurai is to Japanese films.

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~ by asiaflicks on March 26, 2010.

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