Samurai Rebellion (1967) 4.71/5 (1)
4.71/51

 

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Rating: The Good – 86.8
Genre: Jidaigeki
Duration: 128 mins
Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Stars: Toshirô Mifune, Yôko Tsukasa, Gô Katô

Masaki Kobayashi’s Samurai Rebellion is a lesser known feature from the jidaigeki genre but one of its most impressive examples. Set in the 1700’s, it tells the story of a dutiful vassal Isaburo (Toshirô Mifune) who has spent his life obeying both his objectionable wife as well as his clan’s elders for the sake of peace and quiet. As the most accomplished swordsman in his lord’s fief, he gets his small pleasures in life from discussing martial arts with his friend and closely matched rival played by the great Tatsuya Nakadai. Things change when his son is ordered to marry one of his lord’s former ladies, Ichi. Although, reluctant at first, things go well as his son and new daughter-in-law develop a proper bond and give him his first grandchild. However, when the lord demands the return of his daughter-in-law, he decides he and his family have taken enough and refuses to send her back. Things inevitably come to a head and a mighty showdown ensues between his clan and the lord’s men.

The story is a remarkable one and even more remarkable is how seldom we have seen it anywhere before or since given its obviously compelling and universal themes. It brings the best out in all the actors and truthfully, this is one of Mifune’s best performances, even if it is less explosive than some of his more famous roles. It’s also a slow burner as the first 90 minutes are spent building the pretext for the action that is to come. However, when it does come, we are not disappointed as Samurai Rebellion offers up some extraordinary action choreography and direction. Equally impressive are the cinematography and lighting which really come to the fore during the dramatic scenes and combat sequences (two scenes in particular to look out for are the moment when Ichi is grilled by the clan’s elders and the final showdown as Isaburo hunts down the musketeers in a breezy meadow).

In many ways, Samurai Rebellion is a spellbinding film. The actors are perfectly in sync with the directors’ immaculate pacing and as good as Mifune and Nakadai are, they are well matched by Gô Katô as Isaburo’s son and Yôko Tsukasa as Ichi. Above all, it is the heart-rendering story of love, family, strength, and courage which we remember best as this is one film that can be appreciated by fans of any genre and by people of any nation.

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