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Kagemusha (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

4.7 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Ken'ichi Hagiwara, Jinpachi Nezu, Hideji Ôtaki
  • Directors: Akira Kurosawa
  • Writers: Akira Kurosawa, Masato Ide
  • Producers: Akira Kurosawa, Audie Bock, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Tomoyuki Tanaka
  • Format: Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: PG
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: Aug. 18 2009
  • Run Time: 162 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B002AFX52S
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #7,127 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description


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.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Format: VHS Tape
This movie is based on three people 1. Takeda Shingen (Born 1521 - Died 1573),2.Oda Nobunaga (Born 1531 - Died 1582),and 3.Tokugawa Ieyasu (Born 1542 - Died 1616). The movie is set in 16th century Japan (Sengoku Era),Oda Nobunaga rules 'Kyoto' (Yamashiro Province) the throne of Japan,'Kyoto' orders Takeda Shingen to march to Kyoto to liberate the throne from the tyrant Oda Nobunaga. Oda Nobunaga who with 3,000 men defeated Imagawa Yoshimoto's 40,000 men in the battle of Okehazama in 1560 is seen as invincible and ronin warriors start to flock to his banner. In 1573,Oda Nobunaga's army grows from 3,000 to 50,000 men with Takeda Shingen's army at 30,000 men,Takeda Shingen's army beats off Oda Nobunaga's army effortlessly with ease on the road to Kyoto.Oda Nobunaga becomes panick stricken and tries to call a peace with the throne in Kyoto,while Oda Nobunaga helplessly watches his armies destroyed one after another. Tokugawa Ieyasu (an allie of Oda Nobunaga) entrenches himself at Hamamatsu Castle,and launches a calvery of 12,000 against Takeda Shingen's 30,000 men at 'Mikatagahara'(December 22,1573). Tokugawa Ieyasu loses 3,000 men,Takeda Shingen loses 300 men that day. Tokugawa Ieyasu's army runs back like whipped dogs back to the safety of Hamamatsu,watching helplessly as Takeda Shingen's army passes on by to the road to Kyoto. By a quirk of fate Takeda Shingen is shot by a sniper and dies later of lead poison,the Takeda clan keeps his death a secret for three years,meanwhile,Oda Nobunaga wonders why Takeda Shingen has laggard his attack not knowing Takeda Shingen died three years ago.
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Format: VHS Tape
When Kurosawa made this film he was 70 years old and it stands without question as one of his best films. What makes it so powerful is the portrayal of the perfect fusion of the warrior's emotional intensity with intellectual acuity. Both emotion and intellect are focused solely, in this film, on enemy warlords outwitting each other and that focus is so strong that it more than carries the film through its 2 1/2 hour length.
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.
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Format: VHS Tape
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. This is a human story about the lowest assuming the guise of the highest, and the conflicts this creates both in his co-conspirators and in himself.
Remember the movie "Dave", where Kevin Klein takes the place of a deceased president so that the president's underlings can carry on with their plans? That's basically the plot of Kagemusha, only it is not comedy. In fact, there is a great sadness about this movie, as a thief who assumes the role of a samurai lord learns what it is to hold absolute power and yet to be an imposter. No matter how faithfully he plays his role, in the end he knows he will be discarded or even killed for his efforts. There is an especially touching twist involving his affection for the deceased lord's grandson, who at first is mistrustful but comes to adore the disguised thief. Thus the kagemusha gets his first taste of what fatherly love must feel like, in a splendid castle in which everyone -- even the heir -- must treat him as though he is the real McCoy, all the while knowing that his new life is as transient as a cherry blossom.
Technically, the film is sound, the cinematography is dramatic and colorful, but there are plenty of draaaaaaaawn out scenes, so typical of Kurosawa, that may have the less patient viewer reaching for the remote's fast-forward button. In particular the ending, where all the carnage of a climactic, devastating battle takes place off-screen while we watch the thief's face react is almost comical, like watching a mime at the circus, which is FAR from its intent.
Still, this movie is accessible, a little moving and definitely worth a look.
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