Sword Devil (Kenki)

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Nau of Sands
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Sword Devil (Kenki)

Postby Nau of Sands » Thu 08 Dec, 2005 20:15

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Kenji Misumi was a very prolific japanese director. He is above all famous for popular sabre movies such as several ones of the very large serie of Zatoichi, and for 4 of the six Baby Cart movies, that are his last movies as well as among the last japanese samuraï sabre movies.

He was a very stylish director, and showed it in some of more personnal works he did, such as Kenki/Sword Devil, here reviewed. He does not leave the world of sabre movies, though.

The story is based on a novel by [url=http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0793084/]Renzaburô Shibata
[/url] but seems to be built on Misumi's own experience. He certainly didn t chose it randomly.

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Misumi was the son of a low level geisha of Kyoto who abandoned him, his father was a rich businessman who never recognized him, although he help him financially for his studies. But this help stopped when Misumi explained that he was passioned by litterature, painting and wanted to be an artist.

He was lucky to enter japanese studios and begin as a writer, as his erudition and writing skills impressed everyone, but the second world war began and Misumi was sent to the front. It seems that he was traumatized by this war experience, who achieved in a siberian prisoner camp for several years. Misumi always refused to say a word about it.

His mutism after the war was more than that, as it seems he nevers takes parts in parties and fun moments in the life of the studios, where he was back to work. His colleagues considered him as a kind of mute lunatic who was always reading, watching films and drinking coffee.

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I developed this themes about Misumi's life as it is obvious that they are keys to many of his movies, including this one.

The hero, Hanpei, played by Raizô Ichikawa, has an obscure origin. He is the son the only servant of a concubin who has turned mad. The mystery surrounding the madness of the concubin and the loneliness of her servant give birth to a rumor : Hanpei would be the son of a dog, and is rejected by the others.

He has been raised by an old man who dies at the beginning of the movie, and now a challenge awaits Hanpei, simply to exist in an ultra-hierachised society where he definitely not starts at the top.

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Hanpei is a solitary young man in this time of peace in the region he lives. But it appears that Hanpei has something special : he succeeds at becoming incredibly skilled in the arts he gets interrested in. He becomes a gardener of amazing talent and is hired by the local lord.

This would be sufficient for him for the beginning of a career, but events occur. The local lord, son of the mad concubin of he beginning, turns to be mad as well. He cannot stand the flowers that he asked for, and Hanpei has to find another job

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But Hanpei may really be the son of the dog, he is not really human as he can run quicker than a horse, and is a natural born swordsman, which is soon discovered. These talents allow him to be a professionnal killer. Now Hanpei has a place, he could follow a normal life. But the path of sword is not a path like others, for the one that follows it has a price to pay.

And above all, is it possible to do it as a job, obeying orders of his superiors and getting back home at evening, in the context  of a warlord turning completely mad. Even if Hanpei stays away from political games and performs his duty as required, can he be spared by the events ?

For it soons appears that Hanpei has not really found a place in society, he is still despised, even if now he is feared. He can only try to escape to a secret garden he has created, apart from the world, and where he may achieve his pursue of happiness.

But can things be that simple, with the bloodbath going on and Hanpei chosing a cursed sword to perform his acts, a sword that belonged to a legendary killer ? The number of deathes stills increases, and events escape control.

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A very beautiful movie, really worth to be seen. Again, this is not a pure Sabre Samurai movie, as the hero does not follow any code, he has even no training and is more guided by the nature of the weapon than by any other consideration. Because he is so simple, he is not subject of the "perversions" of fencing technique, but shows the true face of a sword, only designed to kill. There is nothing to admire in Hapei personnality, as he is looking for peace and a normal life while his acts show the opposite.

I really enjoy this one, and give it a 5/6.

It may be hard to find on DVD though, erratic editions do exist :/ but let s hope that the DVD boom will go on ;) If you can watch it, enjoy.

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