Animeigo sent me a very cool contemporary samurai film, Sword of Desperation (2010). It plays like a combo of old school and new -- think Twilight Samurai (2003) meets Destiny's Son (1962); all the gentle realism of the former fused with the genre conventions and deep Zen of the latter. Quite a heady mix, really.
Meet Sanzaemon Kanemi. He's a samurai retainer who kicks things off by running his wakizashi through the heart of his lord's favorite consort. Now normally that would be it for our Sanzaemon, but for some reason the lord spares his life, letting him off with a year's house arrest and a reduction in his annual rice stipend. Why did Sanzaemon do it? And why was he left with his head still fastened to his neck? All will be revealed, but slowly, delicately, oh so gradually, like the unfolding of a lotus blossom.
I mentioned that Sword of Desperation reminded me of Twilight Samurai. This is probably due to the fact that the novel its based on was penned by the same author, Shohei Fujisawa. Like the other films in the Yoji Yamada-directed sorta-trilogy, the central character here is a decent man, expert swordsman (of course), and is eventually placed in an impossible position with only his sword to help him. What I appreciated about this picture above the Yamada films was the blood; the arterial spray in Sword of Desperation is truly awesome. Think vintage Gosha meets that unforgettable scene in Sanjuro. The film takes such pains to present immaculate tatami interiors that when the blood finally starts flowing, the contrast is truly shocking. (I've often thought the Japanese must have a meticulous, time-honored technique for cleaning blood stains, what with all the sword-weilding that used to go on.)
So there you have it, another great samurai film, rich and rare and oh so very steeped in bushido. Savor it.
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