The Hidden Blade 

Directed by Yoji Yamada

Yoji Yamada, having spent much of the years 1969-1995 directing more than 40 installments of the Tora-san comfort-food comedy series, is currently at work on an elegiac samurai trilogy. The Hidden Blade is a near-carbon copy of 2002’s Twilight Samurai: in both films, a low-level retainer (Hiroyuki Sanada in Twilight, Masatoshi Nagase here) defies the conventions of Tokugawa-era society by rescuing a childhood friend (for whom he silently pines) from marital oppression, and reluctantly submits to his superiors’ orders to kill a samurai who’s broken from the clan. Aside from dialogue that does less to submerge thematic concerns, Hidden Blade’s major update on the template is a deepened backstory around the climactic duel; Yamada also brings his spring-loaded choreography up short with a visceral reminder of his characters’ impending obsolescence, intertwining the swordplay centerpiece with genre send-off. The stately camerawork, bathed in gold light and framed by picturesque pastoralia, is unmistakably nostalgic, but Yamada’s aesthetic traditionalism venerates a virtuous man as he chafes against unjust convention. (Even if this progressivism comes with a distinctly patriarchal slant.) That the taciturn hero’s daughter narrated Twilight is the retrospective clincher: Yamada’s making samurai movies about Atticus Finch.

Opens June 23 at Cinema Village


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Mark Asch

  • The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week

    Noirs classic and neo, melodrama, vampires, Buñuel, and Diane Keaton in the best outfits in the history of cinema.
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • War Crimes: The Kill Team

    A documentary about American infantrymen who killed civilians offers up a number of suggestive parallels.
    • Jul 16, 2014
  • More »

Latest in Film Reviews

  • Feel Good?: Get On Up

    This long-gestating James Brown biopic is fun, but leaves you wanting more... something. Anything.
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • Boyhood: Rich Hill

    This documentary about three teens in Missouri contributes to a great year for the coming-of-age film.
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • Home for the Holidays: Happy Christmas

    Joe Swanberg's latest continues the director's successful graduation from mumblecore into slightly less mumbly indie dramedy.
    • Jul 30, 2014
  • More »

© 2014 The L Magazine
Website powered by Foundation