15 July 2009

Kagemusha (1980)

Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
Written by: Akira Kurosawa & Masato Ide
Full credits from IMDb

The famous final 90 seconds of Kagemusha, the sweeping rifles-and-samurais saga that marked the start of Kurosawa's late career mini-comeback, are as astounding as you may have heard. The camera surveys, in quick snapshots, a ravaged battlefield in combat's aftermath: dazed soldiers, bathed in blood-red paint, stumble through the decimation while injured horses flail like fish out of water. It's an enormously scaled tragic finale — with a vague anti-war suggestion about where our leaders' arrogance leads, maybe? — that affirms Kurosawa's standing as an Old Master; and it's desperately needed proof to refute the messy 10,000 seconds that come before, which call into question the director's reputation. Kurosawa once famously remarked, "In all my films, there's three or maybe four minutes of real cinema." Though an obvious, self-deprecating exaggeration, the observation comes close to describing Kagemusha.

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