Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Japan Cuts ’13: The Samurai that Night
gave the world one of the greatest revenge stories of all time. Sadly, Hollywood is reportedly returning the
favor by butchering Keanu’s 47 Ronin into
some kind of cheesy Frankenstein’s Monster.
It turns out vengeance-taking is trickier proposition than people
realize. A grieving husband understands
this only too well in Masaaki Akahori’s The
Samurai that Night (trailer
screens tonight as part of the 2013 Japan Cuts: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema.
Nakamura was always socially awkward, but the hit-and-run death of his wife Hisako
reduces him to a scant shell of a man.
Nearly five years later, Hiroshi Kijima, the violent petty thug
responsible for her death, has been released from jail. He is neither reformed nor remorseful, but he
is a little unnerved by the daily death threats he receives from Nakamura
promising to kill him on the fast approaching anniversary of Hisako’s
death. Yet, he still has the presence of
mind to use the poison pen letters to extort money from Nakamura’s earnest brother-in-law.
moodier, slower burner than even the original misunderstood Death Wish, Samurai hardly gives viewers any consolation whatsoever. Nakamura is a profoundly damaged soul, Kijima
is absolutely rotten to the core, and neither is likely to change. Still, agonizingly touching moments spring up
in the most surprising places, such as when the rough hewn employees of
Nakamura’s metal works express affection for their disintegrating boss.
from a genre crowd-pleaser, Samurai vividly
depicts the ugly, awkward, and messy realities of violence. Viewers are not likely to forget the climatic
showdown, precisely because of the ways it undercuts expectations and payback genre
the sweat-drenched tighty-whitey wearing Nakamura, Masato Sakai fearlessly put
himself out there. At times, he is
absolutely painful to watch, like a huge open sore picking itself apart
on-screen. In contrast, Takayuki Yamada’s
Kijima is a study in fiercely controlled aggression. Mercifully, Kinuwo Yamada
and Tsutomu Takahashi add a deeply humane dimension to the film as bystanders
sympathetic to Nakamura.
You have to admire the integrity of
writer-director Akahori’s vision. His
unforgiving depiction of human nature never gives his characters anyplace to
hide. It is a world of drab colors and humdrum
homes that looses nothing in the translation.
This is a writer’s film much more than a director’s film,
matter-of-factly presenting the angst and cruelty of his characters. Powerfully brought to life by an accomplished
cast, The Samurai that Night is
highly recommended for those not intimidated by everyday tragedy when it
screens tomorrow night (7/21), as this year’s Japan Cuts concludes at the Japan
Labels: Japan Cuts '13, Japanese Cinema