Bushi no Ichibun (Love and Honor, 2006)
Kimura Takuya, Dan Rei, Sasano Takashi
Dir. Yamada Yoji
No spoilers here; everything here should be consumed as fresh as possible. It’s enough that the star, King Kimutaku of SMAP, is so well-known the potential of distraction is already high. Imagine that: Kimutaku in a samurai role. It’s not even his first one (he did a TV version of “Ryoma ga Yuku,” a jidaigeki title that’s probably been done since the fifties).
I saw the first of director Yamada’s so-called trilogy (“Tasogare Seibei”) a few years ago at a small art-house museum and was impressed with how he was able to render with great might a story about simple people caught in not-so-simple circumstances. There’s a vital realism to how he portrays feudal life in Japan. The castles, kimono and topknots are there, just like TV, but the fantasy gloss is greatly reduced and a greater emphasis on how people live.
This particular story is indeed highlighted by Kimura’s S*T*A*R presense but isn’t overtly soaked in it, thanks to a group of characters that enhance the story without delving into base cliche. There is levity and even some light comedy but never enough that we are distracted from the storytelling at hand. There is vitality from Kimutaku to his wife (played by Dan Rei, a former Takarazuka actress) and even the lowly old family servant, who I have seen in other TV dramas before but didn’t really recognize until way later in the movie.
I’ve read reviewers who wrote that Yamada has done for the jidai-geki genre what Kurosawa did in 1954 with “Seven Samurai”: redefine and recharge it. I’m not sure I would go that far on a limb (the complexities of Kurosawa’s movies require book-length study) but this is one movie that has earned its critical praise, (not to mention commercial success). Remarkable for someone so closely tied to the adventures of “Tora-san.”
***1/2 (out of ****).