Kagemusha (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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The 1970s were difficult years for the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. Following the box-office failure of his 1970 film Dodes'ka-den and an unsuccessful suicide attempt, Kurosawa was unable to find financial backing in Japan, and he made his acclaimed 1975 film Dersu Uzala in Siberia with Russian financing. With only partial Japanese backing for his epic project Kagemusha, the 70-year-old master then found American support from George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, who served as coexecutive producers (through 20th Century Fox) for this magnificent 1980 production--to that date the most expensive film in Japanese history. Set in the late 16th century, Kagemusha centers on the Takeda clan, one of three warlord clans battling for control of Japan at the end of the feudal period. When Lord Shingen (Tatsuya Nakadai), head of the Takeda clan, is mortally wounded in battle and near death, he orders that his death be kept secret and that his "kagemusha"--or "shadow warrior"--take his place for a period of three years to prevent clan disruption and enemy takeover. The identical double is a petty thief (also played by Nakadai) spared from execution due to his uncanny resemblance to Lord Shingen--but his true identity cannot prevent the tides of fate from rising over the Takeda clan in a climactic scene of battlefield devastation. Through stunning visuals and meticulous attention to every physical and stylistic detail, Kurosawa made a film that restored his status as Japan's greatest filmmaker, and the success of Kagemusha enabled the director to make his 1985 masterpiece, Ran. --Jeff Shannon --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The strong visuals should be obvious - an Akira Kurosawa film with no strong visuals is like a Monet painting with poor use of color. The battle scenes are stunning and seem to come out of a nightmare, with rifleman shooting down on soldiers with a bright light flashing behind them. The colored armor of Takeda's men were also nicely picked and, as Kurosawa would later do with "Ran", give their presense a hauntingly beautiful yet horrifying tone. The final scene at the Battle of Nagashino (which was wrongfully nitpicked in Stephen Turnbull's Osprey book of the battle) chooses to show us only the aftermath of the battle, with shots of cavalry charging to the gunners and then cutting to the horrified expressions of those who watch the unfolding massacre of Japan's greatest army. The shot of the fields of dead is some thing that could only have come out of the nightmare of war.
I think the strongest part of the film, though, were the characters. The film has a slew of fascinating characters, from Takeda's generals (each with their own personality) right down to the rifleman who shot Takeda. Even the spies from Oda and Tokugawa interact and talk like real people, and I can't think of any one in this film I easily forget. I especially liked Oda Nobunaga, and I think this film has the best portrayal I've ever seen of him. He can be seen walking out with his army and stopping briefly to listen to a Christian priest give a prayer.Read more ›
In fact, so strong is the focus that the hapless title character (the shadow warrior)--a common thief who is a perfect lookalike for a mighty warlord, who recruits the thief and is then used by the warlord's retainers as a stand-in after the warlord's death--himself ultimately takes on the psychology of a warrior. And this is true even after he is dismissed from service, after the ordained three years of his deception as the warlord have passed.
Nowhere else in film has the psychology of the warrior been portrayed so sharply, with so much focus, with so much depth--not even in other Kurosawa films, although Seven Samurai is the sine qua non of samurai films. Yet here, in Kagemusha, we see the workings of the minds on both sides, whereas Seven Samurai's power comes from its depiction of how samurais use their intelligence to fight and outwit a completely insubstantial enemy--that is, the bandits, who are never shown up close or presented as anything other than marauding forces.
Kagemusha will never be equalled in its portrayal of the intensity of the warrior spirit. Add to that the astounding vision of a filmmaker who knows more than any other how, where, and why a battle scene's power is derived. As well, there is perfect production design, costuming, and set pieces. There is the obvious attention to detail in capturing the entire world of feudal Japan.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This double-dvd shows you the genious and passion of Akira Kirasawa on Disc 2. I suggest viewing the second disc before watching the movie. Read morePublished on March 23 2010 by jamesbonds
Regardless of its length and broad assumption that viewers will have some understanding of sixteenth century Japanese feudal systems, this remains Kurosawa's best film - better,... Read morePublished on Nov. 29 2002
for the DVD. Great movie but poor VHS quality. Very grainy. Hope the DVD cleans it up.Published on Sept. 21 2002 by P. Williams
Kurosawa's best, shame about the vid quality/length. check out Ran and Throne of Blood, also pretty good. Read morePublished on April 18 2002 by joe gideon
Kurosawa at his best. When i stumbled over this movie, many years ago, I wasn't aware, that Kurosawa was so deep and important. Read morePublished on March 12 2002
If Akira Kurosawa had not made Ran, Kagemusha would probably have been considered his last great film. Read morePublished on March 11 2002
Kagemusha is a drama, not an action movie. There are no great duels, and the battle scenes, while effective window dressing for the story, are not themselves the focus. Read morePublished on Aug. 19 2001 by Ecnal Yeldnil
Kagemusha is another entry in Kurosawa's decades-long string of Samurai movies and is replet with rank-n-file anti-war themes: empires are fleeting, stubborn pride proves costly,... Read morePublished on June 28 2001 by Noctem
Produced in 1980 with the finacial suport of George Lucas and Francis Ford Copolla, Akira Kurosawa's Kagemusha is in all aspects an epic. Read morePublished on June 27 2001
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