Japan, 1980, 179 min
Direction: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kenichi Hagiwara, Takashi Shimura
Awards: Golden Palm in Cannes Film Festival in 1980, César for Best Foreign Film in france Film Festival in 1980, BAFTA Film Award for Best Costume Design and Best Direction in 1981, Silver Ribbon for Best Director - Foreign Film by Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists, in 1981.
Selection: Pedja's Film Collection
A war drama translated as The Shadow Warrior presents one of the key filmmakers at his best, although he had already made his movies that made him immortal, such as Seven Samurai, Rashomon, and Throne of Blood. Akira Kurosawa, as a versatile artist, and a cineaste, but also as a man with great knowledge about artistic heritage of the whole human civilization, has always tried to unite the influences of fine art, especially literature, with Japanese cultural milieu, so in his works, influences of Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, Gorky, and Tolstoy intertwine, with the elements of kabuki theatres and scenes from the history of the "Land of the Rising Sun". Kagemusha takes place in the historical period of Sengoku in the 16th century that remained remembered by numerous political turmoil and intrigues connected to the fight over the throne.
The central event of the movie is the battle of Nagashino, which truly took place in 1575. A historical person is also Shingen Takeda, a warlord who, like Stalin several centuries later, had practice of having men acting as being him, and replacing him for his security, in the times of key moments of the struggle for power. Dangerous, but potentially lucrative role, due to an amazing similarity to the leader, is given to Kagemusha, a small thief who gets spared from the death penalty and crucifixion. Although at a safe distance while watching a battle, Shingen gets deadly wounded, so the replacement’s stake gets incredibly high when the leader make his general pledge to keep the secret to all cost and to continue the mission. The confused thief over night gains all honors of a ruler, including the right to have intercourse with his concubines. The games of power, however, are not easy or naïve at all, so he encounters a series of more serious temptations that lead him to the bloody end.
When Kurosawa exceeded the budget near the end of the shooting of Kagemusha, he called his old friends and admirers, Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas to help him. He had influence over them because of his work, especially over the creator of Star Wars, who got the idea for the legendary robots R2D2 and C3PO from Akira’s Hidden Fortress. Both masters were signed as executive producers. The choice of the leading actor, Tacuja Nakadaji, who was also Kurosawa’s regular associate, was not the choice of the first casting, because the leading role had been given to a comedian who got fired when he was caught taping the famous director’s methods. The movie shared the Golden Palm in Cannes with an also anthological achievement by Bob Fosse, called All That Jazz.