Saturday, November 22, 2008

Samurai Spy (Masahiro Shinoda, 1965)

Fighting in the fog in Masahiro Shinoda's Samurai Spy (1965).

Masahiro Shinoda's anti-war samurai film is set in 1614, and seems to be an allegory for the Cold War and the relations between the US and Soviet in the 1960's. The beginning is quite confusing when all the different clans and characters are introduced, all with different loyalties and motives. After a while though, it's easier to make sense of it all. I felt like the first time I watched Kinji Fukasaku's The Yakuza Papers (1973-1974) films.

I won't go into the details of the story more than that it's about a spy named Sasuke, working for a neutral clan, who is trying to find out the truth about two murders he is accused of committing. Of course, it brings him into conflict with with two other clans and double-crossing spies.

Samurai Spy is more of a spy film than it is a regular samurai film, focussing more on the frail peace of the time in which the film is set, where war may break out at any time, and the spies working with and against each other, than on samurai honor. The spies are also more like ninjas with supernatural powers than samurai. The action in the film is quite bloody but a lot of times it is obscured by objects in the foreground, fog or edits. I don't know if it's just a stylistic choice or part of the films anti-war message.

Samurai Spy is a good looking and sometimes confusing film, but even if it is hard to follow in parts, it is still entertaining enough. It's not as good as most other samurai films I've seen, but it doesn't feel like it's really trying to achieve the same things anyway.

Tetsuro Tanba and Koji Takahashi.