Dai-bosatsu tôge (1966)
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- The Sword of Doom
- 120 min.
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Absolute dynamite. One of the finest samurai films there is. It is unique, and from the looks of it, unseen and under-appreciated by many.
The film has everything. Tatsuya Nakadai and Toshiro Mifune together, thrilling sword-fighting scenes and a surprisingly deep and branching storyline. There are sub-plots, that you'd think don't amount to nothing, but they do, after you give some thought to it. And it is all presented in a very interesting way.
Nakadai's character is the centerpiece of the film and what a sublime character it is. It is rare to see a movie revolve around a character like that, and he isn't even some generic villain. Nakadai's performance is one of his greatest, only a notch below his role in Seppuku and Human Condition. Toshiro Mifune has a relatively small role, but it is important nevertheless.
After doing some research, there was apparently going to be two more films involving the same characters, but they never came to be. So we are left to analyze the ending as a stand-alone, and I think the ending indeed is fantastic and completes this masterpiece. The movie has a nihilistic statement and the ending seems to be the embodiment of that.
The sword is the soul. Study the soul to know the sword. Evil mind, evil sword.
One of the greatest movies of all time.
Tatsuya Nakadai doesn't get anywhere near enough recognition, I mean Toshiro Mifune is great and all, but Nakadai is where it's at, son. He is the true giant in Japanese cinema. And although I loved Mifune's cameo in this film, all he really did was play himself, the generic Mifune-character we've already seen in numerous Jidaigeki before.
It's almost as if there's no limit to Nakadai's range on film. Here we see him play the lead, but he is no hero, he is a full-blown villain, yet still, you can't help but love him. Everything he does in this film is captivating and awe-inspiring. The sword-fight scene in the beginning makes him look like an unstoppable killing machine, but when the fight-scene with Mifune comes along, it's as if he doesn't know how to hold a sword or more like isn't worthy to wield it against him, it's beautiful story-telling, just beautiful.
At times the movie feels confusing, it's as if the numerous sub-plots have their own sub-plots and you can easily see that some of them were made with a sequel in mind. Despite this, come the end of the film, you can't help but feel like everything has come full circle. And what an ending it is, so bleak and filled with despair, yet still so brilliantly beautiful.
It's hard to rate this movie lower than any other Jidaigeki out there, but it's the confusion with the sub-plots that makes me rank it just a tad below Seppuku and Kagemusha, two other movies that star Nakadai at the helm. But the main character has never been as tasty in any Jidaigeki as the one in this movie.
The more you tell me, the more a villain he seems. A man from hell. The world's full of villains, but he beats them all.
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In 4 official lists
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This movie ranks #25 in Patrick Galloway's guide to samurai films
This movie ranks #99 in iCheckMovies - Most Favorite
This movie ranks #303 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #402 in Doubling the Canon