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A powerful movie of love, honor, duty, injustice and self-respect

  • Aug 18, 2011
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 and while the samurai code of obligation and duty is as rigid as ever, there are no wars to fight. When a local daimyo casts aside a concubine, the mother of his youngest son, he sends her to a retainer, Isaburo Sasahara (Toshiro Mifune) with the order that she marry Sasahara's oldest son, Yogoro (Go Kato). Isaburo is probably the best swordsmen in the district, but he is a minor functionary and has been married 20 years to a woman who scorns him. He accepts his fate with his wife, a termagant, and simply tries to do a good job at the lower level assignment he has.
The order by their lord divides the family, but finally Yogoro agrees to marry the woman, Ichi (Yoko Tsukasa). The two develop a deep love for each other. They have a daughter, Tomi. Then three years after the daimyo sent her to the Sasahara family, he orders her return. His eldest son has died and it would be a disgrace to have the mother of the new heir married to a retainer.
By now Sasahara has resigned as head of his family and turned responsibility over to Yogoro, placing Ichi, whom he has come to love as a father, over his domineering wife. Yogoro plans to refuse the order and Ichi is determined to stay as his wife. Great pressure is brought to bear on both of them as well as on Sasahara. Sasahara says the decision must be Yogoro's...but he makes clear what his feelings are. Duty and obligation are placed on Yogoro and Ichi by members of the family and by the officials of the daimyo. Yogoro wavers for a moment. Sasahara has had enough.
"My father-in-law was impressed with my swordsmanship," he tells the couple. "As head of the Sasahara clan, he asked me to marry into the family. But otherwise I have no talents. In other words, I am a worthless man. So in order to prove myself for these past 20 years I have fought to preserve our good name and social standing. So why am I so obstinate now? The cruel injustice involved, for one thing. But your beautiful love for each other has touched me most of all. There's never been a shred of love in my married life! Promise me, Yogoro, that you'll never let Ichi go!" Turning to Ichi, he says, "No matter what happens, never leave him! Promise me!"
The three will not agree to the return of Ichi. The daimyo will not change his cruel order. Up to now the movie has been spent exploring the life of Isaburo Sasahara, his home, his family, his relationships with his superiors, all of whom expect obedience. Family councils are held. The daimyo's minions plot ways to force the return of Ichi. Threats are made. Seppuku is ordered. At one point Ichi is tricked into the daimyo's castle. Sasahara and Yogoro prepare to defend their home.
Sasahara virtually shouts out to his daimyo's steward, who has come to manipulate an agreement from him, "And tell everyone this for me! I, Isaburo Sasahara, in all my life have never felt more alive than I do now.!"
Sasahara knows full well what the outcome of his defiance will most likely be. So do Yogoro and Ichi. The injustice of it, and their love, make them as determined as Sasahara. A confrontation is inevitable and occurs in a spasm of violence. Sasahara finally takes his baby granddaughter and walks toward Edo, carrying her in his arms. He will plead his case before the Shogun. He makes it as far as the frontier gate of the daimyo's lands. His closest friend, played by Tatsuya Nakadai, an equally good swordsman, has been ordered to stop him. There is no happy ending. We are left only with Sasahara's hope for his granddaughter and with the satisfaction of being a man who found self-respect.
I'm not sure if this is enough to make a tragedy, but it comes close. Isaburo Sasahara found nobility along with self-respect.
The black and white film is beautifully photographed. Kobayashi takes his time letting us see Sasahara's life and how he and his family live. He helps us understand the unyielding social order of Sasahara's world. He builds an understanding of the kind of man Sasahara is and became. We can understand how, seeing his son's love for Ichi and how it is returned, he will not see his son's life turn into his life. All the obligations to a corrupt, self-indulgent and cruel lord become meaningless as he sees the futility of what his life turned out to be.
This is a fine movie with major themes. It would not be as powerful as it is without superlative performances by the thee main actors, particularly Mifune. He moves believably and powerfully from a cautious man who is emotionally deadened into a man who has been changed by the love he sees between his son and Ichi, and then outraged by the injustice done to them. 
A powerful movie of love, honor, duty, injustice and self-respect A powerful movie of love, honor, duty, injustice and self-respect A powerful movie of love, honor, duty, injustice and self-respect A powerful movie of love, honor, duty, injustice and self-respect

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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 . December 22, 2008
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Criterion collection Dvd cover
"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 …
About the reviewer
C. O. DeRiemer ()
Ranked #32
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
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About this movie



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

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