Well, I’ve been yammering on a lot about Visual Kei lately, in case it slipped your notice. I like working in these weird thematic clumps; I geuss I just get struck with these bouts of incurable inspiration– For example, I’m just drowning in a mouth-frothing fervor over writing about Samurai just now. Like how we get cravings for chocolate cake or grapefruit juice.
Yeah, it’s the truth: I’m totally into Samurai movies. A couple of years ago I watched the epically lengthy cowboy flick Magnificent Seven, which is a wild-west rendition of Kurosawa Akira’s masterpiece The Seven Samurai. I really enjoyed both movies, and I thought that Magnificent Seven captured the characters well. And, of course, there’s no more typical Western mirror for Japanese history than cowboys and Samurai. Generally I’m a fan of Kurosawa’s films, partly because I’m a big fan of Mifune Toshiro, who acts in a lot of them. If I could choose to be anyone else, I would probably pick him.
I also added an aside to my rant on emo culture earlier about Miyavi’s Kabuki-rock project. Although “kabuki rock” is sort of Miyavi’s little brain-child, there’s common ground where many bands meet, and I like to call it “SamuPan”– in plain English, Samurai Punk. Stop chuckling- it’s true. Japanese rockers consciously interact with their famously honorable warrior culture by rocking out in various modes of Samurai-ness. The best of both worlds. Today I’m going to review a film that takes it to the next level: rockers actually playing Samurai.
Although there are a lot of excellent (and otherwise) Samurai films out there, I’m always looking for something that’s really interesting. Anybody can run around howling and wielding extremely sharp weapons and get us pumped up and ready to hack at the first thing that comes along, but I’m talking about some real spice that sets one ancient feud apart from another.
I discovered one which deserves much noise made in its honor. *fanfare* Samurai Fiction (1998)distributed by Pony Canyon [which also takes charge of the exotic Jrock duo LM.C]. The film was the first full-length feature by director Nakano Hiroyuki, who was established as the director of music-videos for MTV Japan. This is apparent in particular scenes that are brief, but dreamlike and strange with no character movement or dialogue taking place, set under a dramatic music score.
Samurai Fiction begins when the aloof swordsman Kazamatsuri, warden of the ancestral sword of the Iga Clan, steals the sword and leaves the Clan. The Clan head’s young son (in the lovely passion of youth! The daring days of youth! The reckless– ok, we get it) gets the uppity idea to chase after Kazamatsuri and retrieve the sword. The rest of the film follows both men in their clashes and reprieves.
The other area in which we see homage to the director’s MTV-heritage is in the casting of musician Hotei Tomoyasu
in the villainous role of Kazamatsuri Rannosuke. Hotei composed and performed the entire musical-score for the film, and it was his acting debut.
After Kagen No Tsuki, I’ve about had my fill of 2-hour-long music video acting-debuts, but Samurai Fiction soon revealed that I had nothing to worry about! The musical-score was quite awesome. Mainly rock with some heavy
guitar-wailing courtesy of our villain, paired quite nicely with some taiko (Japanese drums) tracks where appropriate, and a few licks in honor of Clint Eastwood’s cowboy flicks. (*heh hem*)
The film itself was an exceptionally awesome piece bowing to famous Samurai productions such as the acclaimed Kurosawa’s masterpieces. The film, although shot in 1998, is done entirely in classic black and white, except for some special situations. Such as. There is no gore– nope, not a spec of crimson blood (and certainly no fountains exploding from graphically punctured arteries). However, we are not entirely cheated! Whenever someone is cut down by a masterful katana stroke, the screen flashes red, and we shudder….punctured arteries exploding in our deep, wounded conscious….
The film is also intended to be a comedy. And honestly…it’s the first Japanese comedy I have ever watched and
actually laughed really really hard at! It was truly hilarious! Many aspects of SF and lots of the characters (especially
the frantic young protagonist) were almost parodies of the same movies that inspired it. And it is as skillfully done as the finest episodes of School Rumble! (yes…I did just pull that comparison out of no where… actually it has nothing in common with School Rumble except for its wild abandon in hilarity and awesomeness).
The acting was great, and contrary to this wounded psychology’s concerns around acting-debuts… It was actually Hotei’s appearance on screen that caused much heightening of attentiveness– his portrayal of the totally awesome, aloof, brimming-with-badass-ness was completely perfect, and you could totally expect him to draw his katana and have it do like Transformers and morph into super-sleek guitar and then everyone watching would start rocking out along with.
If you have any pride as a samurai-movie-lover, you will acquire this masterpiece ASAP and do not just yourself, but all of us, a huge favor. Both parody and tip of the hat to the great Samurai films of the century, Samurai Fiction is the perfect blend of comedy and action, and is perfectly acceptable to watch with your mom.
Gacktpause, over and out.