Screenkicker Classics: The Twilight Samurai

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Director: Yoji Yamada
Year: 2002
Country: Japan

Available on Netflix: Yes (subject to change)

I’m gonna come out and say it. I love samurai. I love the swords, the armour, and the kick-ass helmets. My love of samurai and the films that feature them started with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Turtles in Time (I was young, don’t judge me!) and then moved on to Kurosawa classics such as Seven Samurai and Ran. It’s safe to say
that while the other kids wanted to be footballers when they grew up, I wanted to be a heavily armoured, sword-wielding warrior from feudal Japan. Or a pirate. Or a ninja. or a robot. You get the point, I wanted to grow up to be something more realistic than being good enough to play for Man U. This brings us to Screenkicker’s first ever featured classic – The Twilight Samurai.

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The movie Kurosawa wished he had made

The movie really isn’t your typical samurai movie.  It’s set during peacetime when samurai worked as accountants instead of warriors. Essentially they went from doing the coolest job in the world to the most boring job in the world. This is where we meet Seibei (Hiroyuki Sanada) a samurai/accountant/single parent (what a combo!) who struggles to make ends meet until he is presented with an offer he can’t refuse.

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Ear cleaning was a woman’s job in 1869

Released in 2002 and directed by Yoji Yamada it throws a curve ball at anyone expecting a violent action movie.  It tackles something I feel is much more important than the usual motive of revenge – it’s about how normal people survive when life has given them a hard time.  It’s very relevant during these recession hit times, more so than when it was released and this gives it an immediacy that stays with the viewer.  Combine this with romance, comedy, and some very cute kids, and you have a winner on your hands.  All together it’s one of those films that gives you hope in humanity.  Oh and a desire to get your hands on a kickass sword.

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Some viewers might find the pace slow at times but I was hooked from start to finish. it’s the kind of movie that you just sit back and absorb and the way Yamada helps you understand the way society worked back then and the intricacies of the feudal system is very impressive.

Twilight Samurai is a tender, moving, low key drama about a good man trying to do good things in spite of the rules of feudal Japan. Sanada gives a wonderfully understated performance that leaves the audience rooting for him and his family.  Watch it for something a bit different, you won’t regret it and you might even shed a tear like me most people who watch it

 

More good news – An excerpt of this review is featured as part of Paragraph Film Reviews‘ Japanorama movie fest.  You can check it out here.

6 comments

  1. I have wanted to see this for a long time and this is one of the first reviews I’ve actually seen of it. Didn’t even know what it was about. And yes, Samurai are awesome.

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    • It was a big surprise for me. I was expecting an ultraviolent revenge flick but it was a really touching film. In it his nickname is twilight because he goes straight home in the evening after work to see his kids while his co workers go out drinking

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  2. Hey man, just stopping by to say thanks for putting a piece in for JAPANORAMA. I’m getting some glowing reviews of films that weren’t even on my list through these guest posts so it’s much appreciated. Really like your writing style too.

    Like

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