Plot: Lord Asano resists a bribery attempt by a member of the Shogun's court. His honesty, however, is useless against the corruption of the administration, and he is forced to commit harakiri. His samurai retinue are dispersed as masterless ronin. The leader of the samurai, Oichi, plots with a loyal band of ronin to seek revenge for their master's dishonor.
«Such ethical complexity makes the film feel better than the simple propaganda film the government intended it to be and the mere historic recounting of events that if sometimes feels like due to its obsession with ceremony. When a woman in disguise shows up in the last reel, she asks many of the questions (Is honor really that important? What about the loved ones of the samurai?) that had been niggling at the audience for the film’s running time. Though her presence makes the film feel, for the first time, a tad melodramatic it also finally alleviates the feeling that the screenwriters were utterly unaware of the concerns of laypeople. »
«But our challenge, after seeing a film in its historical context, is to make something of it for ourselves. First of all, we can't necessarily accept a film's values merely because it moves us. At the same time, we should try to see the film in all its dimensions. As Mizoguchi's camera constantly destabilizes the film's images, he creates a poetics of space far more general than the specific values of the story. The issues he poses--of the balance between an individual and the social code, between emotion and tradition--are still with us, albeit in different forms. And as we watch one of his intense static compositions, focusing emotion momentarily on one character, transform into a moving shot that reframes the characters or introduces new ones, creating a new context, it becomes clear that the relationship between an individual and his culture is in part the result of the way we see space itself.»
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