Ken Takakura , Kiichi Nakai , Koichi Iwaki
This is a the first of a series of film reviews starring the late Ken Takakura who passed away in November 2014.
Ken Takakura was one of Japan's greatest actors and stars of the last fifty years. Having starred in many films and even breaking into the Hollywood scene.
What better way to start this look at his films with a film about a legendary story of the 47 Ronin (Chūshingura)
from the house of AKO which was home to Lord Asano Naganori.
This is one of many films on the famous story as well as novels and TV series. Of course where be ignoring the Hollywood film on the subject which seemed to bastardise the story with the use of special effects and witches and demons.
The story of the 47 Ronin is a one of honour and allegiance which follows how the chief retainer of the house of Asano along with 46 other Samurai planned a calculated attack in a act of revenge for the death of their master who was sentenced to death by the Shogun by Sepulku after he had drawn his sword in anger on Lord Kira in the royal chambers in the early 1700's Shogun era.
In this particular film the focus is more so from the outset on the Chief retainer Oishi Kuranosuke ( Ken Takakura) , the events of the actual incident which led them to their actions are told in flashback through the film.
Features for TV and the big screen have been made about the story for years and this is probably one of the more known ones, now I have not seen them all and the only other one I can comment on is the 1978 film ''The Fall of AKO Castle'' which stars another famous Japanese star we will be focusing on in the near future.
The depiction of the characters between these two films is quite different in that in this 1994 film with Ken Takakura ,the depiction of Oishi is one of a family man with a very calm head on his shoulders.
He cares for the other Ronin without expecting them to help full fill his revenge on Lord Kira.
47 Ronin is a not a action packed feature , it has some great action within it but those familiar with the story will know when this will take place.
What 47 Ronin shows is the code of Bushido as the Ako Caslte ronin pledge allegiance to help take out the revenge for their Lord.
Oshi carefully plans the attack over a period of two years with his allies , they find ways of funding their plan for which they need armour and weapons , but they also need plans and schedules of the people their after, they need to be able to strike at the right time , a time when Lord Kira's allies are not available to help him..
Another difference between this film and the other I have seen based on the Chūshingura story is that Lord Kira is ready for the attack , he's constantly waiting for the day he will be attacked for revenge by Oshi and his men.
Lord Kira's only problem is that he knows not when this will take place and finds himself in readiness for two years.
Also the Shogun who sentenced Lord Asano to death also has a reason to be careful as the fall of Lord Asano's house lends itself to the Shogun's favour, he can manipulate the hold he has on the other Samurai that are loyal to him.
Ken Takakura's portrayal of Oishi Kuranosuke is one of a man whose saddened greatly by the death of his master, he's a family man and one whose at odds with his destiny and what he actually like to do.
Oshi also becomes involved with a young girl whose the daughter of a colleague who is helping him and his men in their mission. This and other scenes of the ronin trying to lead normal lives while they plan their attack make the viewer more attached to each of the characters .
Coming in at a little over two hours this particular adaptation of the story may be a little short to some in conveying the patience Oshi and the other ronin had in planning the assault which culminates at the end of the film.
But like i said this film concentrates on the story of Oshi Kuranosuke from the time of the house of Ako hearing of Lord Asano's death and that the Shogun had confiscated the Ako land and disbanded the Ako Samurai making them Ronin.
Other films feature content on the actual incident that took place prior to Lord Asano's death by sepulku. Also the other film i have seen personally have portrayed the resulting penalty the ronin incurred in their attack on Lord Kira.
As a more up to date telling of the story (1994) Kon Ichikawa's 47 Ronin is a fine piece of cinema,the resulting attack which took place in the Winter on snow covered ground is a sight for cinema fans of Japanese film. Battle scenes are well cordinated and portray the effectiveness of the Samurai and how they relentlessly sway a path to their goal.
Remember this is a story based on actual events, and it's this that makes it so brilliant, you can have all the special effects and crazy story lines in film , but when a fact based event is portrayed of such ingenuity and righteousness it really makes you stop and think .
And descendants of the house of Asano must be very proud to be associated with such honour and dedication, because i would if i where them.
Kon Ichikawa's 47 Ronin is wonderful film and a fitting film to start our small retrospective on the Late Ken Takakura .
|Directed by||Kon Ichikawa|
|Produced by||Jitsuzo Horiuchi |
|Written by||Kon Ichikawa |
|Starring||Ken Takakura |
|Music by||Kensaku Tanikawa|
|Edited by||Chizuko Osada|
October 22, 1994 (Japan)
Ken Takakura ... Kuranosuke Ōishi
Kiichi Nakai ... Matashirō Irobe
Ryudo Uzaki ... Yasubei Horibe
Tatsuo Matsumura ... Yahei Horibe
Misa Shimizu ... Hori
source : wikipedia
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