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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 48.94%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 23 user ratings

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Twilight Samurai, The
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by Jay Seaver

"It's 'Samurai Single Dad'"
4 stars

There is, of course, a double meaning to this film's English title. First, that it's a story about the samurai as their way of life comes to the end (or as a specific one grows older), like last year's The Last Samurai. Within Yoji Yamada's excellent movie, however, it is used as a derisive nickname for Seibei Iguchi (Hiroyuki Sanada), who unlike the other samurai of the castle, hurries home before dark to be with his daughters and elderly mother.

During the early going, it's easy to think that Twilight Samurai might become a comedy or satire of some sort. It maps almost too well to twenty-first century life - though Iguchi has the title of samurai, he's a rather low-level one. He spends his days not as a warrior, but as a clerk, doing counts on the castle's stores and making sure that the books are even. He struggles to keep up with his family responsibilities, working a sort of second job building insect cages to make ends meet, and he could even be said to have a mortgage. He encourages his daughter to study Confucius (even though his uncle, the head of the family, disdains the idea of women being too educated) because book learning will teach her how to think, which will always be useful, even if sewing seems more practical now. His life falls into a familiar pattern, but he doesn't much mind - he's not ambitious, and nothing makes him happier than spending time with his daughters, ten-year-old Kayana and five-year-old Ito. Then, in an almost sitcom-like plot turn, Tomoe (Rie Miyazawa), the newly-divorced younger sister of his good friend Iinuma, returns to town.

Part of what makes this such an enjoyable movie, though, is that we can identify with Iguchi, even though he comes from a very different time and culture (I imagine that's somewhat the case for audiences in modern Japan, as well). That way, we're more aware of his frame of mind when the unfamiliar parts of his life - whether they be the complications of arranged marriages or the parts of his job that involve him using his sword - take center stage.

Yamada has a likable cast; Iguchi and Tomoe are a couple worth rooting for, and the young actresses playing Kayana and Ito are adorable. Aside from the bloody swordplay and the discussions of the politics that make it necessary, this could almost be a PG or PG-13 family movie. That said, what action this movie features is rather intense, including a couple shots of gushing blood; there's also recurring images of starved bodies washing up on the shore of the local river. It's labeled "Action/Drama/Family" on the IMDB, but it's definitely a case of knowing your family.

Twilight Samurai isn't a particularly challenging movie, but it is intelligent and well-constructed. It's a mature movie that nevertheless generates warm fuzzies, and now that I have had a chance to see it, I'd say it was a fitting nomination for Foreign Language Film at this year's Academy Awards, and that its near-sweep of Japan's Academy Awards doesn't surprise me.

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originally posted: 06/14/04 08:35:04
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/12/14 jeanne Love it so much, had to buy the DVD. Gorgeous cinematography, beautiful story. 5 stars
5/18/08 paul evans watched it tonight for the eighth time, rates as a superb movie.It is in my top 10 movies o 5 stars
5/13/06 Monster W. Kung Excellent. Makes "The Last Samurai" look like the rubbish it is. 5 stars
5/23/05 y2mckay Comedy, drama, romance, 2 great duels, and an excellent cast. Beautiful. 5 stars
3/23/05 john wallace Outstanding!!! 5 stars 5 stars
2/17/05 Maria A. Cabrera Wonderful! Just Wonderful! 5 stars
1/01/05 DM Slow at times, but it leaves a strong impression. 4 stars
11/22/04 neil maedel touching and very well made - aflick for the romantic 5 stars
7/12/04 Jeff Peden Unexpected, but very good 4 stars
3/17/04 Zeynep Görpe One of the best japanese movies that I have seen.. 5 stars
3/14/04 Lawrence Washington In all truth I wasn't expecting this type of movie, but I was completely satisfied with it. 5 stars
3/04/04 Larisa Zimmerman This movie is wonderful. I recommend it highly. 5 stars
2/22/04 K This is the real samurai movie. 5 stars
2/16/04 Patrick Donnelly A beautiful, intelligent, moving film 5 stars
2/10/04 bmwracer An excellent film worthy of its awards. 5 stars
2/04/04 Rob A great film. You may also want to consider When the Last Sword is Drawn... 4 stars
1/23/04 Pon If you are move, you must be without heart. 5 stars
1/08/04 Peter Lew A beautiful story and majestically photographed. 4 stars
12/06/03 Ken schisumarei 5 stars
12/04/03 Minh T. It's riveting film making 5 stars
11/11/03 peter k. unique perspective of the samurai 4 stars
11/11/03 Paul Honda Superior 5 stars
11/08/03 alex hatton better than sliced bread 5 stars
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  DVD: 28-Dec-2004



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