Ah, there’s nothing so slightly geeky yet curiously satisfying as watching a movie about a period of history you’ve spent time studying. So it was that I found The Twilight Samurai, a movie about a low level samurai administrator in mid-19th century Japan, set a few years before the Meiji Ishin. Little did I know when I acquired it (along with films I really should already have watched, but haven’t yet- Rashomon, Seven Samurai) how quietly brilliant it would be. Unlike most samurai themed movies, its totally character driven, rather than action driven. When action does appear, its brilliantly rendered, but it never takes over from the story. The re-creation of feudal life seems incredibly complete to me, down to the bizarre old Japanese the characters speak. Not much happens really, but that’s always a sign of my favourite movies- characters are all important, and the struggles of Seibei draw you in far more than any House of Flying Daggers extravaganza could.
There are two more films in the roughly grouped series, directed by Yoji Yamada- The Hidden Blade, and Love and Honour. This one is definitely worth seeing.