- 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: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
- Language: Japanese
- Subtitles: English
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Number of discs: 2
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: Criterion
- Release Date: March 29 2005
- Run Time: 162 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 25 customer reviews
- ASIN: B00005JLEJ
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #18,759 in Movies & TV Shows (See Top 100 in Movies & TV Shows)
Kagemusha (Criterion Collection)
Kagemusha (The Criterion Collection)
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 alternate DVD edition.
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There is no combat shown whatsoever, just the aftermath of the "epic" struggle.
I think if I have to imagine a battle, I might as well read a book. Films are supposed to show something and not leave everything to the viewer's imagination, that is not to say one should glorify battle scenes and show flying limbs and heads indiscriminately as in so many current movies.
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. There is another part where he rides around on an Arab horse, followed by a scene where he offers Tokugawa Ieyasu a glass of Western wine (poor Tokugawa chokes on it!).
The best character is, of course, the shadow warrior himself. The actor did a wonderful job of playing Takeda and the imposter, and even though being a common thief that nearly quits his job in the beginning, you find yourself growing to like him. The scene where he confesses to the concubines he is an imposter, knowing they'll take it as a joke, and then winks at a general was hilarious! Also, notice in the scene where a retainer describes to Takeda's nephew what the meaning of the clan flag is...the imposter is listening just as intently as the boy is! He also comes out strong in the second-to-last battle sequence, where he watches as men fight and die for a man they strongly admire. The final Kurosawa metaphor at the end (which I won't describe because its a serious spoiler) also gives the whole point of the story. The man tried to undertake a role that was perhaps too big for him, a role only one man could really play.
Overall, I was very impressed with this movie, and I would definately recommend it as viewing for those fans of the master of film himself. I hope soon a DVD will be released of it and I will be able to add it to my growing Akira Kurosawa DVD set. In the meantime, I happily own a video copy for viewing.
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. All of these together make for a film so riveting, so well done, it is impossible to say anything bad about the film. It just can't be done.
This is a must see for all serious students of film, and for all those who love a great adventure, and for all those who just flat out love movies.
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