Monday, September 14, 2009

Ronin-Gai (1990)

Ronin-Gai (1990)

September 17th, 7:00PM in Garland 104 (2441 E. Hartford)

***The screenings will now begin at 7:00PM***

As a film, Ronin-Gai (1990) has an amazing degree of historical and critical convergence. Its pedigree reaches back to the early Japanese film industry and beyond. It is also the final film of actor Shintaro Katsu who’s Zatochi character is a legend of world cinema. The basic plot involves a community of Ronin living around a rural inn. Set in Japan during the 1830's, towards the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate, a time of great stagnation. The film is deceptive in that it seems to be centered on a series of prostitute murders, but there true significance goes much further then simple crime.

The film was directed by Kazio Kuroki as a reminiscence and homage to his film making family. It was made to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the death of his Grandfather Shozo Makino, nicknamed the Father of Japanese Film, who amongst other areas was a pathfinder in period swordplay films. The film of the same name that this is a loose remake of was made in 1928 and based upon a novel. The original was directed by Masahiro Makino the sun of Shozo Makino and father of the director of the 1990 version. The original was one of the last of a string of period films which challenged traditional views of Japans feudal period and the idea of the Samurai. At times these films were used to provide commentary over the growing militarism and cultural conservatism sweeping Japan. By the late 1920's sweeping censorship was in place and it would increasingly become government policy to deal harshly with any dissenting voices including imprisonment, torture and murder only ending with the Japanese defeat in the Second World War.

Of the four Ronin or Masterless Samurai in the film, the most engaging is without a doubt a man nicknamed Bull played in his last performance by Shintaro Katsu. During a long career Katsu is best known for playing a blind swordsman known as Zatoichi in 25 films and a TV series. Besides this he had numerous other roles in other films. He was also a major film producer probably best known for the Lone Wolf and Cub film series starring his brother. Ronin-Gai remains a triumph of the genre and a celebration of Japanese film.
Japan, Director Kazuo Kuroki, Cast Yoshio Harada, Kanako Higuchi, Renji Ishibashi, Shintaro Katsu and Eisei Amamoto, 121 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles.


Aaron Held said...

do you recall who composed the music to the soundtrack?

Josias said...

From the information I can find, its was Teizo Matsumura.