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kitsuno
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2006 1:49 am    Post subject: Hidden Blade Reply with quote
Samurai movie short on action, long on emotion

By Jeff Shannon

Special to The Seattle Times

Anyone expecting lots of dynamic swordplay from "The Hidden Blade" may be disappointed, but this stately samurai drama from 2004 has more than action in its favor.

Recently shown at the Seattle International Film Festival and returning for a week at the Varsity, it's a worthy follow-up (the second film in a trilogy) to director Yoji Yamada's 2002 hit, "Twilight Samurai." It returns to the final years of the Tokugawa Shogunate, when centuries of Japanese tradition are drawing to a close.

It's 1861 and Katagiri (Masatoshi Nagase) is a loyal samurai of the Unasaka clan. The story begins with Katagiri bidding farewell to his old friend Hazama (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), who's accepted an important clan posting in the capital city of Edo.

Their parting weighs heavily on Katagiri, who is further burdened by recent family history and, more pressingly, by his love for his family's maid, Kie (Japanese pop star Takako Matsu), whose lower-caste status makes her off-limits as a potential wife.

Leery of his clan's embrace of Western weaponry and military training, Katagiri faces his most urgent crisis when Hazama is arrested for treason. Having rescued Kie from a loveless marriage, Katagiri enjoys some semblance of contentment until he's ordered to kill Hazama, who has escaped from his holding cell and taken hostages in a nearby village.

Honor, desire and loyalty all come into play in this simmering saga. It erupts into violence only briefly, and only after Yamada — best known in Japan for his prolific contributions to the popular "Tora-San" series of romantic comedies — has thoroughly established a richly emotional foundation for this engrossing tale of a good man forced to re-evaluate the rules that have dominated his life.

Fifteen years after starring in Jim Jarmusch's "Mystery Train," Nagase brings a perfect balance of quiet gravitas and romantic spirit to his role.

"The Hidden Blade" may be a catchy title (it refers to a secret samurai technique that Katagiri puts to good use), but it's a bit misleading: This is really a tenacious survival tale in which passionate lovers are held apart by outmoded traditions. How they overcome obstacles to happiness is what makes the film so dramatically engaging.

Jeff Shannon: j.sh@verizon.net

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company
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Metsuke
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2006 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Sounds interesting. I really enjoyed Twilight Samurai so I will have to pick this one up and watch it too.
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msr.iaidoka
Iaidouka
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2006 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno,

And...queued. Horrah for Netflix.


Peace,

Matt
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Mencius
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 15, 2006 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I saw this on the plane coming back from Japan in April. I don't know if I would have got the DVD, but certainly it was worth watching. Smile
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shikisoku
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Quote:
(Japanese pop star Takako Matsu),


Pop star?
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kitsuno
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2006 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
shikisoku wrote:

Pop star?


She's a singer, I've randomly downloaded some of her songs. Don't know if she is a "pop star" though.
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