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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Twilight Samurai

I've always thought of the Japanese samurai as the disciplined, gung ho, warrior both admired and feared by friend and foe alike. The Twilight Samurai is a film that quickly teaches an unfamiliar audience that the samurai lives a life radically different than what you might think.

The Twilight Samurai is set in 1700 Japan. Here samurai are not warriors but largely public servants working in accounting and other duties. Are they expected to fight? Yes, they are military in that sense but for the most part they perform repetitive public duties and are rarely if ever called into combat. A good way to think of this in modern terms is, if you work for the Department of Motor Vehicles now, you probably were a samurai back in the 1700's Japan.

Seibei Iguchi is a low level samurai. He earns very little but makes just enough for his family doing repetitive record keeping during the day and making insect cages at night. His wife died sometime earlier of tuberculosis and his aging mother hardly remembers his name. He provides lovingly for his children. He is not ambitious in his career, has little time or motivation for grooming and seems content with living a simple life while barely making ends meet.

I loved this film for what it was not. This is not an action movie, there are no sweeping scenes marauding armies, there is no glorification of the samurai. Watching the characters in The Twilight Samurai you get the feeling you are seeing a peaceful, austere side of the samurai that few, if any, movies have captured.

The acting is sound and the pace of the film is perfect. Yes, there is occasional fighting but not at all like the chop-saki karate flicks that cropped up during the 70's and 80's. The fighting is logical, fits with the family and cultural themes of the film and is in no way fatuous.

Check it out.

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