Samurai Rebellion

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Nau of Sands
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Samurai Rebellion

Postby Nau of Sands » Tue 18 Jul, 2006 18:17

Masaki Kobayashi is a major japanese director of the 1960 & 70s, an it is high time he gets a topic.

He shot various masterpieces such as Seppuku, another sabre movie, or the more ghost oriented Kaidan, but after some hesitation I decided to review Samurai Rebellion.

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IMDb wrote: Jôi-uchi: Hairyô tsuma shimatsu (1967)
Director: Masaki Kobayashi
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 128 min / USA:120 min
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Color: Black and White
SoundMix: Mono
Certification: Argentina:16 / Finland:K-16 / Sweden:15


Rebellion is a quite austere movie, depicting the life in feudal japan in a very severe way. The social hierarchy is crushing the individuals who exist only as part of their clan, with a very heavy codification of their behaviours.

Kobayashi’s point is not really about the historical situation of Japan in the early XVIIIth century, although the movie is very well documented and exact. He aims at talking of japanese society after World War II and the weight of social conformism at that time in a very violent machist and hierarchised society.

The exact title is not Samuraï Rebellion but Rebellion, and it is a very simple (and complete) summary of the movie plot :D

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A happy familial meeting in feudal japan. On this pic the family is at its maximum festive mood.

In 1725, Japan is at peace, and the groups of skilled swordsmen that once ruled the country are now serving local warlords, depending on the clans they integrated thanks to their service.

Isaburo - Toshiro Mifune is a samurai, getting old, now in charge of the weapons. It is said he has no match among the clan for sword mastery, except maybe for his great friend Tatewaki Tatsuya Nakadai

But it is hard to believe Isaburo is the terror he is supposed to be. Apart from being very faithful to his lord and his clan, he is dominated in his couple by his wife, who is ambitious and comes from a higher social class than he does.


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You are talking to me ?

Isaburo submission is not a secret, he admits it and it is even a subject of jokes in the clan.

This is the reason why the clan master chooses Isaburo’s son to marry a former concubine of his, whom he has rejected. This is not a very bright wedding for Isaburo’s son and his wife is infuriated by this. She has the feeling of getting once more down the social ladder. The rejected concubine is surrounded by a mood of scandal, and this is obviously a failure for Isaburo and his son carreer.

But once again, Isaburo obeys.


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A meeting in the clan hierarchy. They are almost as funny an delirious than the family above.

The trouble really begins when the Lord’s wife dies without children. There is a crisis meeting in the clan that decides that the former concubine must return to breed a clan heir.

The surprise in the meantime is that the young concubine and Isaburo’s son match very well and that a separation would be a real drama to both of them.

This is the reason that, for the first time of his life, Isaburo decide not to obey. He becomes a rebel samurai. The difficulty is simple : rebellion for a samurai is synonym of shame, and condemns his whole family and relatives to be excluded from the clan. There is harsh discussions within Isaburo familial cell, but the decision is taken : they are in rebellion, which means they condamn themselves to death and/or exclusion.

What will happen next cannot be avoided now.

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A movie for geometry lovers.

What is striking in this movie is its incredible graphic quality, very abstract and the skill of the actors. While it is almost a caricature of samurai movie, with monosyllabic dialogues at best – plain silence most of the time, I felt close to the characters.

The classical contemporary music of the composer Toru Takemistu fits perfectly the mood of the movie and helps a lot creating the atmosphere.

The result is a very lyrical movie with a feeling that the things that are going to happen cannot be escaped, by any means. This is suicide, and this is suicide with style as prefered to eternal submission. But the one-time-too-many humiliated samurai Isaburo knows that his impressive rebellion will remain unknown, he is a loser and the clan power will erase the real story to put an idealised version of the events.

But even though, the process of rebellion is preferable to him, as he says “For the first time in my life I feel alive!” (In Japanese it would sound better but I don t speak japanese :p)

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Two different ways to wait an ennemy attack. Of course, only the sitting Toshiro Mifune stands a chance, the other one is too nervous, but no spoilers here...

Do not expect many fights in this movie which is still without discussion a sabre movie : there is only one, the final one, but the whole movie prepares us to attend it. This is not gratuitous fight, but a very important one, on which the energy of all the characters are focused.

Kobayashi himself was a strange character. During World War II, he refused the promotions to officer status he was proposed by his superiors and decided to remain a basic private. As his characters, he was not someone to accept the system.

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These guys attack Toshiro Mifune and they are only a dozen ! They should have watched more samurai movies of the 1960s, they would have known that only an army can stop this guy when he is in anger.

I really like this movie and I think that if you get in its mood, you ll be fascinated too.

No doubt it is worth a 6/6.

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Alert ! Toshiro Mifune has rebelled !

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Chevalier Bayard
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Postby Chevalier Bayard » Mon 24 Jul, 2006 07:38

Does a colorized version of this movie existed or are the color pictures only used for packaging ?

I don't think I've seen that movie and I'm interrested to do so ... once my "to see" dvd pile will have shrunk a bit ;)

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Nau of Sands
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Postby Nau of Sands » Tue 25 Jul, 2006 13:06

no i guess the color pics are used only on the poster, the movie is definiely shot in b&w


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