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Cinamatheque - Summer of Samurai

Love film? Delight in innovative cinema? Relish seeing genres turned inside out so that you leave a film wanting to shake a passerby and say "WHOA, MAMMA!!"? If you've answered in the positive to even one of those questions, then get thee to the Cinamatheque! Circle August 9 on your calendar because Harakiri is coming!

July and August, following through with June's Chinese Kung-fu extravaganza, find Cinematheque moving further east to Japan for a celebration of the classic samurai film. Directors Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, Gosha and Tanaka are all represented in a fantastic series of bushido-bash ups yet all their films serve as a warm-up for Kobayashi's Harakiri, the ultimate in code-of-honour samurai movies.


From Kurosawa you can enjoy Throne of Blood, Yojimbo and its sequel Sanjuro, the epic Seven Samurai and Rashomon, the latter a film which was among the first to spin the post-modern theme of subjectivity and mistrust of characters-as-storytellers. Mizoguchi films include Ugestsu in a sparkling new 35mm print, The 47 Ronin, Sisters of Gion and The LIfe of Oharu. Amongst Gosha offerings are the gorgeous Goyokin and Three Outlaw Samurai. From Tanaka you can choose from a pair of Zatoichi films with the titular role played by the immortal Shintaro Katsu.

If you're new to the samurai genre it's recommended you cut your gums on any of those previously listed films. But for viewers of the genre old and new and even for those who shy away from slashing katana and inventive blood spray I must stress that you cannot miss Harakiri.

Why? Because it is not a gruff blood-and-guts samurai movie. Kobayashi himself said that he made the movie as an anti-samurai film because it questions the entire code of honour upon which the samurai caste was based. Harakiri ("seppuku" in Japanese - ritual suicide) was a feudal means for shamed warriors or those whose masters had perished (see The 47 Ronin) to regain their honour in death.

But Harakiri serves to question the entire foundation of the Japanese feudal system which placed honour and samurai at the top of the social order; in effect, it is also a reflection upon the values and attitudes which pushed Japan into colonial expansionism and, ultimately World War Two.

This is a remarkable film. Every person I've ever watched it with has expressed a post-viewing comment such as "Why have I never heard of this film before? It's ______!" (insert preferred adjective of astonishment mixed with awe). See it. See it. See it.

Very quickly - there are other non-Japanese delights to see: an Antonioni retrospective including Red Desert, Blow Up, and The Passenger. There's even a FREE SCREENING of 4 films about Antonioni on Friday Aug. 18.

Cinematheque screenings are held at Jackman Hall at 317 Dundas St. West. Great discounts to be had if you join as a member.

pic liberated from and ninjadojo

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