Monday, October 03, 2005

Samurai Movies

I saw a new samurai movie called "Semi Shigure" (A Chorus of Cicadas). I didn't understand it very well, but I did enjoy it. There were a few points that kind of irritated me, though.

One of these was the fact that the lead actors looked very Western, in my opinion. I don't know if that's just because this is what's taken for "handsome" or "pretty" nowadays, but I think it's kind of a shame. If you picked a hundred girls off the street, you wouldn't find any who looked more western than the girl in this film. Why don't they use normal looking people?

In addition, everyone had perfect white teeth, clear complexions, and generally seemed to be in excellent health. In the west, we seem to be in the midst of a "realism" movement: if we are watching a film set in 1600's London, we'll see grubby orphans, diseased and deformed folks, and people (even upper class people) with stained, rotten teeth. I don't need everybody in my movies to look like dental disasters, but a few crooked teeth would be nice. Most of my students (who actually have access to dentistry) don't have teeth nearly this nice. Plus, didn't women of this period commonly black their teeth out with soot or ink? I guess the Japanese movie industry needs to ignore this fact for the sake of appearances. [As a sidebar, I read recently that the white foundation makeup used by Japanese women of this period was made from nightingale droppings... that really makes them extra kissable!]

The fights were generally quite well done; at one point (before the big battle) the protagonist's best friend turns to him and asks, "So, have you ever actually cut anybody?" Of course, the protagonist has never drawn his sword in anger, and we start to get the feeling of what a horrible, desperate thing a sword fight must be. The ensuing fight is quite horrible and desperate, but then falls back onto the old standard choreography: hero in the center of a crowd of faceless baddies, all of whom take turns rushing him with their swords conveniently over their heads so that he can slash their stomachs. (This is the preferred method of killing because the makeup department doesn't have to do anything special... the guy just convulses, staggers, and falls down, all of this with his back to the camera.) And so, with very little effort, the good guy soon finds himself in the middle of 20 or 30 corpses.

The final little thing that bugged the heck out of me (same problem with Kill Bill) was the outlandish sword noises! All of these swords seem to have metal noise-makers embedded in the koiguchi that make the sword scrape with a metal-on-metal sound when they are noisily drawn out of the scabbard. In addition, all the swords have extremely loose furniture so that they rattle at the slightest movement (kind of like guns in Hollywood movies that are constantly clicking and rattling unlike real guns).

Someday, somebody will make a movie without all of these cliches... and it will be roundly criticized by the Japanese public (who, after all, don't know the difference between iaido and aikido, or jodo and judo) as being unrealistic!


Post a Comment

<< Home