ASIAN FILM - Review
15:00 - 16th June 2013, by Calum Waddell

Bakumatsu Taiyo-den

One of the most revered films in Japan (it was a personal favourite of the late, great Akira Kurosawa), this 1957 situation comedy from director Yuzo Kawashima (co-scripted by the better known Shohei Imamura of Pigs and Battleships), holds up remarkably well today. The film kicks off with a brilliant and engaging pre-credits sequence, and barely slows down from there. Set in 1862, at the close of the Shogunate period, the plot focuses on a playboy character called Saheiji (excellently essayed by Frankie Sakai) who gets stuck with a bill that he cannot hope to cover at his local brothel. Consequently, Saheiji takes on work in the establishment to settle his debts - and begins to gain the respect, and lust, of some of the ladies. What might sound like an obvious fantasy becomes far more complex, characterised and driven by the smart socio-political exploration of a changing society and the place of the everyman within it. Attention to period detail is faultless, and every onscreen personality is imbued with a radiant and realistic touch - allowing for the drama, tension and laughs to play out perfectly. As is so often the case, Eureka has brought a comparative obscurity to British shores under its Masters of Cinema label and re-mastered it in pristine HD fashion. Consequently, any scholar of Japanese films owes it to themselves to add this to their collection.

Classic Japanese splendour - beautiful to look at and easy to become involved with - this is an accessible and intriguing curiosity from time's past.
SCORE: 4/5
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