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Kagemusha (Criterion Collection) (1980)

Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, more...
Director: Akira Kurosawa, Akira Kurosawa
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Studio: Criterion
Genre: Foreign, Japan, Samurai, Criterion Collection
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English
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Just as many American studio-era directors found acclaim abroad that was denied them in their home country, by 1980 Akira Kurosawa's reputation outside Japan exceeded his esteem at home. As uncompromising as ever, he found considerable difficulty securing backing for his ambitious projects. Unsure he would be able to film it, the director, an aspiring artist before he entered filmmaking, converted Kagemusha into a series of paintings, and it was partly on the basis of these that he won the financial support of longtime admirers Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas. Set in the 16th century, when powerful warlords competed for control of Japan, it offers an examination of the nature of political power and the slipperiness of identity. For some time, Shingen Takeda Tatsuya Takadai has been able to stay removed from the heat of battle by using his brother Nobukado Tsutomu Yamazaki as a double. As the film opens, Nobukado offers another option, having discovered a condemned thief (also played by Tatsuya Takadai) bearing an uncanny resemblance to the warlord. After he insists on witnessing the fall of an enemy in person, Shingen falls victim to a sniper's bullet, forcing his advisers to present the thief as the fallen warrior. At first awkward in his new position, and plagued by dreams in which the spirit of his double confronts him, he slowly grows into the role even as his enemies begin to advance on his kingdom. The winner of the Palm D'Or at Cannes, Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior has also been released as The Double. ~ Keith Phipps, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Ratings

Kagemusha (Criterion Collection) (1980)
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7.62 (112 votes)
Kagemusha (Criterion Collection) (Bonus Disc) (1980)
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7.39 (18 votes)

GreenCine Member Reviews

period. by cammelltoe March 14, 2007 - 2:08 PM PDT
When i hear the term "period piece", in reference to movies, i immeadiately think of those stodgy, mostly british chamber dramas, usually based on a beloved victorian author that most people don't read anymore, usually notable for historical detail, unabashed theatricality, and a foregrounding of societal ritual. Stuff my mom watches, in other words. With "Kagemusha", the much loved--- atleast in the west--- Akira Kurosawa boldly proves that he too can make a picture just as stodgily as the brits or the yanks. Impressive in scope, amazing in set design, costuming and detail, with a typically charismatic performance from the great Tatsuya Nakadai, "kagemusha" is intermittingly fascinating as eye-candy and, allegedly, history lesson, but a flagrant non-starter as gripping drama. I'm tempted to chalk this inertness up to watching the film on dvd in my living room, as opposed to on film in a theatre with good sound, but that's probably just wishful thinking.
Worth the rental for a great opening scene, that seems to hint at Kurosawa's more rough and ready chambara roots (which turns out to be just a hint)and some other awesome scenes, like a surrealistic dream sequence where the double is pursued by the shadow warrior through an impressionistic dreamscape.

historical interest by Popnfresh January 17, 2006 - 10:28 AM PST
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
A noted lack of an onscreen battle scene (and inclusion of offscreen annhilation) is appropriate in this case and does not feel lazy. This is because said battle does not involve direct clash of swords.

The movie works as a historical character study and it's fascinating to see how Kurosawa paints Ieyasu Tokugawa, Takada Shingen and others. Shingen's fate is speculative, but the theory profferred here is thoroughly and interestingly presented.

The pace is slow. If you're familiar with Japanese history during the warring states period, i promise you'll enjoy this film. If you're not familiar with the characters and the historical context, you'll probably be bored.

shadows by paxdavid August 15, 2005 - 6:26 PM PDT
3 out of 4 members found this review helpful
Any human trying to become someone else will lose their essential nature. Keep that thought in mind as you watch this slowly crafted interpretation of Japanese history. Three constant themes of Kurosawa epics; the demise of the Samurai with the event of guns, the loss of Japanese identity to the Christian influence, and war is a nightmare which destroys the best in us.
The 'shadow' or 'imposter' is all of us, when we imagine we live the life of any historical figure - be it Christ, Buddha, Mohammed... Learn from their teachings, Kurosawa says, but live your own karma. If not, you lose your life.

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