Contemporary World Cinema
SIFF Says:In the Edo period of 1860s Japan, samurai Shimura Kingo’s career is on an upswing. After recently marrying, he has been promoted to personal bodyguard of Ii Naosuke, the chief minister of the Tokugawa shogunate. But his world soon collapses after a gang of assassins ambush Naosuke’s entourage and murder everyone except Kingo. Filled with shame, Kingo is nevertheless forbidden from falling upon his own sword—instead he must atone for his master’s death by hunting down the assassins. So begins Kingo’s 13-year quest to avenge his master and find redemption. However, as years go by and Kingo zeroes in on Jubei, the lone remaining assassin, the feudal society of the samurai begins vanishing around him. Kingo must find a way to reconcile the fulfillment of his sacred BUSHIDO oath with the new Westernized laws of the country that now forbids justice by way of the sword. Japan Academy Prize-winning director Setsuro Wakamatsu recreates the Edo period in lush detail, staging thrilling snowscape fight scenes with precise editing and formal compositions in every frame. SNOW ON THE BLADES, based on a short story by Jiro Asada, is both a rollicking samurai epic and an elegiac portrait of a man caught between his unyielding sense of duty and the inevitable extinction of his way of life.
This samurai drama begins well, goes on for too long, and has a disappointing ending. The film also has some very questionable politics at work in its plot, which involves Japan's late-19th-century transition from a feudal society dominated by samurais and their masters to one dominated by shop owners and moneylenders. The director appears to favor the cultural purity of the ancient and noble warrior ethic. On top of all that, the film’s sword fighting scenes are not all that. (CHARLES MUDEDE)
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