Plot: During the time of change of the mid-19th Century, Yaichiro is bid farewell by his fellow samurai friends Munezo and Samon as he leaves their clan's fiefdom on the northwest coast of Japan (Unasaka) to take an important position within the shogunate in far away Edo. Munezo has lived modestly with his mother and sister Shino after his father was forced into suicide after the failure of a bridge project. Kie, a farm girl serves them as a maid in their house. As time passes, Munezo's sister marries Samon, his mother dies, Kie is married into a merchant family, and he is required to learn western methods of warfare such as the use of artillery and firearms from an official sent from Edo. Learning that Kie is ill due to abuse, he rescues her from her husband's family. Although sharing mutual affection and respect, a marriage between Munezo and Kie is still impossible due to different castes, and when he, now a bachelor, is criticized for her serving in his house, Munezo sends her back to her father's farm. After being caught in a failed political intrigue, Yaichiro is sent home in disgrace and imprisoned in solitary confinement. After Yaichiro escapes, Munezo is ordered to prove his innocence from complicity by killing his old friend, and he seeks the help of his old teacher, the sword master Kansai Toda. Although Yaichiro had been the better swordsman when they studied together, Toda entrusted the secret of the 'Hidden Blade' only to Munezo. Toda now teaches him a new technique to use as he prepares to face Yaichiro, who has taken hostages in a farm house.
Comment: This movie is the second film in Yamada Yoji's samurai trilogy.
«Yamada is clearly a master of this sort of film making, crafting works filled with subtlety and grace and lush period detail. He chooses themes that are distinctively Japanese but also have universal appeal. The entire cast is strong with the lead actors, in particular, conveying volumes through half glances and body language. A sly humor is built into the military training sequences – the frustrated military instructor railing against the ‘back-country samurai’ he has to teach western tactics to hits both in the humor and social commentary departments.»
«My initial impression of this film was one of disappointment in essentially seeing a very similar variation on Twilight Samurai, but where the love story and the fateful duel seemed even less connected. There is definitely a strong sense that Yamada is working with more than one story, as happens to be the case. He could have very easily split the film into two, especially considering the two-plus-hour running time. By not doing so, it does seem as though something is left out.»
« Director Yoji Yamada seems to have a soft spot for drama in his period films. Indeed, just like TWILIGHT SAMURAI, HIDDEN BLADE includes only a few minutes of actual samurai sword-fighting. However, these minimal fighting scenes are very intense and all filmed in one single shot in a very realistic way. These well elaborated minutes of fighting support the strong drama element of the film very well. However, this very small dose of vigor might not be enough to hold the interest of fans of high action swordplay films all the way. »
«The Hidden Blade is not going to be to everyone's taste, but it certainly was to mine. Those seeking a film that's built through-and-through on fast samurai action and peppered with bloody swordplay will likely be disappointed. On the other hand, anyone who likes the idea of a gentler drama featuring a more realistic portrayal of the late Edo period, interleaving two stories – one of romance, one of loyalty, and both of honour – will be well-served by this solid production.»
«I really liked “The Twilight Samurai” and “The Hidden Blade” has the same feel, but has added humor and lightheartedness in several scenes, which in my opinion is a plus. What the two films have in common is the gritty, realistic feel. The poor samurai looks poor, their clothes are torn and shabby and their houses are no palaces. The heroes in both films are the thoughtful type – they seem to think that women and servants are people and not just chattel. This is quite unusual for the time, and one of the things that make these films worth watching.»
«The Hidden Blade” could have been little more than a period soap opera in the hands of a less experienced director but Yoji Yamada makes it a personal epic that satisfies on an emotional level and on a socio-political one. The unrequited romance between Munezo and Kie carries through the entire film and kept me on tenterhooks until the very end (I won’t give away the finale, which kept me hoping all the way through). The political upheavals taking place in mid-19th century Japan is woven with skill with this romance and tells of a nation that is being irrevocably drawn into the rest of the world, where its samurai code of honor will struggle with the realities of Western warfare.»
«The final appearance and explanation of the "Hidden Blade" technique is delicious, as is the way it is cloaked throughout the film as a vague, hanging threat. The sum total of the revelation is a beautiful way of using generic conventions to make broad political allegory.»
Share your thoughts and opinions
Like this film? Planning to watch it or have done already? Want to share your feedback or just give a thumbs up? Found links to intresting reviews, posters or trailers? Your participation is appreciated.