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Righteous Rebellion against Tyranny and Injustice...

  • Dec 22, 2008
Rating:
+5

"The Greatest Evil is when Good Men do nothing in the face of Injustice…"

SAMURAI REBELLION (1967) is directed by Masaki Kobayashi, the same director responsible for the awesome KWAIDAN and the far superior samurai film "Hara-Kiri". Don't get me wrong, this film is a true emotional achievement by Kobayashi, the drama and intense screenplay is magnificent that even the awesome swordplay displayed onscreen seemed utterly unnecessary. "Samurai Rebellion" is a stunning masterpiece in Japanese cinema, originally titled Joiuchi Hairyo tsuma Shimatsu (Rebellion, Receive the Wife) is a tale of righteous rebellion to protect a husband and his wife's honor.



Peacetime. A retainer in the Matsudaira clan named Isaburo Sasahara (Toshiro Mifune) is a retiring samurai who seeks a wife for his son Yogoro (Go Kato). However, his Clan Lord orders him to have his son marry a woman named Ichi (Yoko Tsukasa). She is the Lord's mistress and she has just given birth to his son. Ichi has caused a scandal and has been dismissed from the castle for striking Lord Matsudaira. Isaburo refuses to the union until the son himself agrees to the marriage.

Surprisingly, Ichi proves to be a worthy wife; she and Yogoro get along famously and she bears him a daughter. Then the unexpected happens, Matsudaira's heir dies, which makes Ichi's son the heir apparent. Matsudaira decides to forgive Ichi for striking him and requests her return to his castle, since the mother of the heir cannot be married to a vassal. Ichi refuses and decides to stay married to Yogoro. Ruin may come to the house of Sasahara as Isaburo and his son decides to disobey; the Azu clan has gone too far.



The film is a stunning portrayal of righteousness in the face of injustice. The film effectively explores the social impact of rebellion in the midst of a totalitarian excesses in the Edo Period in Japan as well as the domestic tragedy of the honorable men and the wife who precipitated the events. As in "Hara-Kiri", Kobayashi gives a very bleak view of the political and social injustices committed by self-indulgent authority figures. Kobayashi further delves into the emotional expression of similar themes about family and honor. The main characters are victims of fate, and the lead characters stand tall in their righteous indignations. Even Isaburo's close friend; Tatewaki Asano (played by Tatsuya Nakadai, Hara-Kiri, Sword of Doom) is also a victim of his principles and fate. Tatewaki was instructed to engage Isaburo in combat since he is the only one who may be able to defeat him in a duel, and as much as he tries to stall the inevitable encounter, he ends up crossing swords with his old friend nonetheless.

Ichi is the most interesting female character I've ever come across in chambara films. She is strong-willed and while she did give in to Matsudaira's orders before, she is unmoved to suffer the same injustice a second time. Pressured by relatives to avoid the ruin of the Sasahara family, the woman is such a sight to behold; she outshines the heroism of the two men bent on defending her. Most classic chambara films portray Japanese women as a demure, obedient and ideal wives, and while Ichi's character are all those things; Yoko Tsukasa's devastating performance has created a character far stronger than the all the males around her; this includes her husband, played by Go Sato and her father-in-law, played by Toshiro Mifune.

Toshiro Mifune's character, Isaburo is a master swordsman, whose skills have earned him the position of weapons keeper in the clan. While he did marry his wife out for the sake of social status, never for one moment that his character felt weak. Quite curious that this past may have contributed to the reasons as to why the father would support his son's decisions to disobey their lord. For him, love is a cause worth fighting for, even if it would mean his family's ruin. Yogoro is a man divided in doing his duty to his lord and to his wife, Go Kato bears his soul in his portrayal though his screen time may be limited. The actor efficiently and effectively shows all the needed emotions that an overwhelmed husband would feel.

While I did say that the film didn't need any swordplay to emulate the darkness and intensity of the proceedings, we get it anyway. Toshiro Mifune once again proves why he is among the most loved actors to ever play a samurai warrior. The swordplay is realistic and intense, and follows the choreography that we have been privy to in past samurai films. Adding the strong exclamation point brought about by the duel with his Tatsuya Nakadai, the film satisfies those looking for swordplay action. Which also brings us to the film's one possible very minor fault, the bloodshed near the climax seemed a bit pointless, since the dilemma is over but I suppose the screenplay by Hashimoto Shinobu wanted to end the film with an exciting element for international audiences. (The title has been changed to fit international marketing)

In Samurai Rebellion, director Kobayashi has taken his character study of individuals pushed against their emotional tolerances to the absolute limit. He successfully overcomes the stereotype that samurai films are composed of manly swordfights and has given new emphasis on the strengths of the Japanese woman and the aspects of family. In doing so, he has widened his scope and elevated the film's emotional potential.

Highest Possible Recommendation! [5 Out of 5 Stars]

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January 08, 2013
I remember several years ago during an argument I was having with some guy, I cited this film as an example of the kind of intensity Japanese filmmakers can create that films like CONAN THE BARBARIAN can't accurately replicate. I was specifically referring to the climactic scene with Mifune in stark black and white lurching toward the twisted camera, his face caught in a mad frenzied determination, blood streaming down his forehead and shoulders, his sword raised wildly in the air as if about to split the earth beneath him. I was arguing that the climax of John Milius' film just didn't add up by comparison. Suffice to say, this movie left quite an impression on me when I first saw it. Indeed, it's probably not as profound as HARA-KIRI, but the climax haunted me for years to come.
January 09, 2013
This is one of my top 5 favorite samurai movies. I do have to admit that Kobayashi's HARA-KIRI may have a slight edge over this one but not by much. That's a great observation and comparison with CONAN THE BARBARIAN. Have you seen SWORD OF DOOM?
January 09, 2013
Oh God yes...became an object of obsession back in the day.  Although it's an amazing film, I was so disappointed that they never followed up on it.  I desperately needed to know what happened afterwards that I immediately sought out the older trilogy with Raizô Ichikawa (entitled SATAN'S SWORD) just to get a more complete story. When I planned out the Japanese literary epics I wanted to read in the future, DAIBOSATSU TOGE (the original novel) was very high up there.

Did you see SAMURAI ASSASSIN, another film Okamoto made with Mifune?

Regarding this film vs. HARA-KIRI, the main reason this probably doesn't feel like it has the same "edge" is because it's such a slow boiler at the beginning.  But it builds effectively into an amazing climax.  I agree both films are excellent and memorable in their own ways.
 
September 02, 2012
Love it, great job WP.
 
May 24, 2011
I should have known you saw this one as well lmao. It is an amazing movie isn't it but I agree with you on Ichi, I loved her and she is definitely an interesting character. I thought for a sec that she wouldn't be happy with Yogoro at first or maybe she was even faking her love after a while but I loved her. Not so sure I liked how it ended for her or yogoro but hey I still liked it.. Great review pakman
May 24, 2011
hey, Keith, glad to see you back around here. This was just an awesome movie! Seen the new one called 13 Assassins? (hint hint) I reviewed it.
 
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More Samurai Rebellion reviews
review by . May 24, 2011
posted in ASIANatomy
First off I'm not a big black and white movie fan nor am I a big fan of some modern Japanese films but damn were these old school Japanese movies amazingly brilliant. I think Toshiro Mifune is becoming one of my favorite actors and this is a film worthy of showing his flawless acting talent. Now one thing I've noticed with these films is like a lot of the classic asian films is that it definitely takes patience because they love to build up their stories to a beautiful climax. Samurai Rebellion …
review by . August 18, 2011
A powerful movie of love, honor, duty, injustice and self-respect
Don't come to Samurai Rebellion expecting a strutting, slashing, melodramatic sword flick. Joichi is a movie that deals with major issues -- love, honor, duty, injustice and, above all, self-respect -- and does so in such a sad and noble way that the inevitability of the outcome approaches tragedy. Note that not only elements of the plot are discussed, the entire plot is.       We're in the middle of the long Tokugawa Shogunate, 1725. There has been peace for years …
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Details

Genre: Drama
Release Date: January 1, 1967
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Runtime: 2hrs 8min

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