Thursday, August 2, 2007

Kon Ichikawa's 47 Ronin

Posted on Thu, Aug 2, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Kon Ichikawa's 47 Ronin
Studio: AnimEigo
WorkNameSort: Kon Ichikawa's 47 Ronin
I can't fathom a less exciting samurai film than what Kon Ichikawa has given us, a stilted and talky derivation of one of the most famous, near-mythical stories in Japanese folklore. Like Jean Renoir's Le Marseillaise and Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes the Barley, this attempted re-creation is so grounded in historical fidelity that the drama is lost in a plodding series of dull and uninvolving conversations. The plot is thrilling in theory ' the ronin of the title seeking to avenge the death of the master, who is forced to commit ritual suicide after striking a court official ' but Ichikawa's vision amounts to watching a bunch of executive board meetings by rival firms and knowing next to nothing about what they're talking about. Ichikawa gives us a lot of information, but unless you majored in Japanese history you're out of luck following the convoluted plot. AnimEigo's release doesn't help: The multicolored subtitles are distracting, and a second batch of subtitles, which appear sporadically at the top of the frame to provide cultural context about certain phrases used in the film, only confuses matters further. I don't want my art cinema looking like an episode of Pop-Up Video.

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