Samurai Trilogy 3: Duel at Ganryu Island

The final installment of Hiroshi Inagaki’s Samurai Trilogy, Duel at Ganryu Island is arguably the best of the series.  Released by the Criterion Collection, this film is the summation of the life of legendary samurai hero Musashi Miyamoto.  As with the first two installments, Toshiro Mifune plays the role of Miyamoto.  This film is a continuation of the storyline from The Duel at Ichijoji Temple, therefore it incorporates many of the same characters and adversities that Miyamoto has encountered in the past.  Brilliantly shot and wonderfully acted, this film more than the first two makes the viewer feel as if they are an eyewitness to samurai culture in feudal Japan.

In Duel at Ganryu Island, Musashi Miyamoto finds himself being courted by the Shogun in Edo to be the official teacher for this powerful ruling clan.  It is here that Miyamoto meets a man who is both his admirer and nemesis, Sasaki Kojiro.  Since Miyamoto has no intentions of working for the ruling class he shuns the elite teaching position offered to him and finds that Kojiro accepts the position in his place.  Shortly thereafter, Musashi accepts the challenge of a duel from Kojiro on the condition that it takes place in one years time.  From this point, Miyamoto takes up a simple agrarian lifestyle on the outskirts of Edo and rids the small village that he calls home of bandits.  In addition to the physical challenges that Musashi constantly finds himself in, he is also at the center of a steamy love triangle with two women fighting for his affections.

The final scene of Duel at Ganryu Island is possibly one of the most simple yet beautiful samurai scenes ever filmed.  Musashi and his nemesis Kojiro fight at dusk on shore of Ganryu Island resulting in a stunning piece of cinematography.  The technical quality of this film is remarkably improved from the previous two installments.  While the first two films were dodgy and overly dark , Duel at Ganryu Island is for the most part consistent in the lighting and colors with the exception of a few scenes with heavy contrast.  Overall, this series is a must see for any film buff interested in Japanese culture.  Never overextending itself or coming across as a caricature of samurai culture, this series is a beautiful representation of classical Japanese cinema.

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~ by asiaflicks on April 2, 2010.

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