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4 reviews, 23 user ratings

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Twilight Samurai, The
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by Collin Souter

"Crouching Samurai, Hidden Fury"
4 stars

(SCREENED AT THE 2003 CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FETSIVAL) “The Twilight Samurai” tells the story of Seibei Iguchi, a man who should be a warrior, but instead confines himself to his home where he must look after his two young daughters and ailing mother. He works with samurai, but does not have the aggression or fury necessary to fight in any battles. He carries the title Clan Retainer, which basically amounts to File Clerk. His wife has just died and he feels he must put the interests of his family above anything else, which means not going out drinking with the other samurai after a hard day’s work. With so little time to spend on himself, Iguchi sometimes forgets to shower, bringing disgrace to his profession.

One eventually wonders why he even chose this life for himself if he never felt up to the task of fighting in the first place. Iguchi does have a past that does involve training for warfare, but he has never had the opportunity to use it for the greater good. When a fight breaks out between the luminous Miss Tomoe and her drunken ex-husband Koda, Iguchi puts himself in the position of fighting Koda after he has sobered up in order to break things up in a civilized manner.

Miss Tomoe, a childhood friend of Iguchi’s, helps him out at home. She brings his two daughters to fairs put on by the peasants in the village and she helps cook and clean. She becomes the surrogate mother to the two kids. Meanwhile, word of Iguchi’s unconventional fighting technique (used when fighting Koda) gets around town and soon he receives an assignment that could cost him his life and cause a serious rupture into his own heart of darkness.

If you walk into “Twilight Samurai” expecting a Kurosawa-type epic, you may be taken aback by how little fighting and warfare actually exists in the movie (or not if you have read the above synopsis). This movie plays more like a family drama than a Shakespearean tale of bloodshed and revenge. It’s the sort of movie Ang Lee would make if he had been given the chance to re-invent the samurai movie. It centers on a man who must try and maintain the good in him while trying to avert his eyes from the evil that surrounds. It’s about single fatherhood and, like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” unrequited love.

The movie only stumbles when it gives us voice-over narration from the adult version of Iguchi’s youngest daughter, Ito. Ito and Iguchi only appear together in a few scenes and Ito herself does not appear in any of the scenes in which the story takes major turns, so why does she get to narrate? The movie does not end up being about her, even in the film’s coda (It would almost be like having the Harrison Ford character narrate “Apocalypse Now”). A third-person omniscient narrator might have worked better, if only to convey the feeling of bringing to life a legend rather than a just a story.

The rest of “The Twilight Samurai” works wonderfully. Director Yoji Yamada does not try to emulate Kurosawa, nor does he get overly operatic. He has a refined and elegant style, careful to let his actors breathe. As Iguchi, Hiroyuki Sanada gives a deeply heartfelt performance, especially during a declaration of the heart that could have easily gone over the top. With Iguchi, he has created a deeply tragic and hopeful character, one who maintains respectability in the face of utter foolishness.

“The Twilight Samurai” is a wonderful elegy. It has a simplicity that will engage audiences while also arousing the intellect. Many filmgoers will think that they don’t want to see a samurai movie, but they would be wrong here. Iguchi is a character with whom many of us can identify. He could be more if it weren’t for the things that hold him down (His sadness, his two daughters, his ailing mother and his reluctance to put his life on the line). We contemplate his dilemma in the film’s third act as though it were our own and most of the time, we’re right there with him.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8211&reviewer=233
originally posted: 09/30/03 09:27:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/11/14 jeanne Love it so much, had to buy the DVD. Gorgeous cinematography, beautiful story. 5 stars
5/17/08 paul evans watched it tonight for the eighth time, rates as a superb movie.It is in my top 10 movies o 5 stars
5/12/06 Monster W. Kung Excellent. Makes "The Last Samurai" look like the rubbish it is. 5 stars
5/22/05 y2mckay Comedy, drama, romance, 2 great duels, and an excellent cast. Beautiful. 5 stars
3/22/05 john wallace Outstanding!!! 5 stars 5 stars
2/16/05 Maria A. Cabrera Wonderful! Just Wonderful! 5 stars
12/31/04 DM Slow at times, but it leaves a strong impression. 4 stars
11/21/04 neil maedel touching and very well made - aflick for the romantic 5 stars
7/12/04 Jeff Peden Unexpected, but very good 4 stars
3/16/04 Zeynep Görpe One of the best japanese movies that I have seen.. 5 stars
3/14/04 Lawrence Washington In all truth I wasn't expecting this type of movie, but I was completely satisfied with it. 5 stars
3/03/04 Larisa Zimmerman This movie is wonderful. I recommend it highly. 5 stars
2/21/04 K This is the real samurai movie. 5 stars
2/16/04 Patrick Donnelly A beautiful, intelligent, moving film 5 stars
2/09/04 bmwracer An excellent film worthy of its awards. 5 stars
2/04/04 Rob A great film. You may also want to consider When the Last Sword is Drawn... 4 stars
1/22/04 Pon If you are move, you must be without heart. 5 stars
1/07/04 Peter Lew A beautiful story and majestically photographed. 4 stars
12/05/03 Ken schisumarei 5 stars
12/03/03 Minh T. It's riveting film making 5 stars
11/10/03 peter k. unique perspective of the samurai 4 stars
11/10/03 Paul Honda Superior 5 stars
11/07/03 alex hatton better than sliced bread 5 stars
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  DVD: 28-Dec-2004



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