Japan, 1967, 128 min
Direction: Masaki Kobayashi
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Tatsuo Matsumura, Takeshu Kato, Yoko Tsukasa
Awards: FIPRESCI award in Venice Festival 1967
Selection: Pedja's Film Collection
The most represented topic of the Japanese cinematography, ancient struggle for power, is also represented in Masaki Kobayashi’s drama originally called Joi-uchu: Hairyo tsuma shimatsu, based on the motives from a novel by Yasuhiko Takiguchi. The story goes in the 18th century, in so-called, Edo period of the history of the far-east island country. The most popular Japanese actor of all times, Toshiro Mifune, plays the lead role. The very film action is subordinated to complicated family relations at the court, the relations that sometimes seem even bizarre, something like in nowadays soap operas. The artistic impression, however, is far more impressive.
Mifune plays samurai Sasahra, a high-ranking official at the court of Lord Matsudaira who has a mistress called Ichi. The beautiful woman, however, is banished from Lord’s vicinity for attacking him when she found out that there was another concubine at the court. Sasahra’s son Yogori gets an order to marry Ichi who is, by the way, mother of a Lord’s child, which makes the young man quite unhappy, until he realizes that the marriage will not be so hard to him because they make a good and happy couple. Several years after, Lord Matsudaira’s son dies, so he orders Ichi and her daughter to return, but now love is a serious obstacle for fulfilling such a decree. Sasahra also opposes such cruelty, so he advises them to oppose it. In this way, a brilliant observation of the remains of the old feudal social establishment of Japan culminates.
The most famous Japanese in the world is brilliant in this role again, and a special decoration is beautiful acoustic music written by Toru Takemitsu specially for this movie, and performed by musicians playing traditional instruments shakuhachi, biwa, and taiko. The delight of the film critics and audience worldwide was affirmed by journalist jury of Venice Festival, that in 1967 gave the main prize to this Kobayashi creation.