Masahiro Shinoda
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

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Masahiro Shinoda

Samurai Spy (1965), based on Koji Nakada's novel "Ten Heroes of Sanada", is a historical costume drama set in 1614, after Tokugawa seized power. The samurai is no longer portrayed as the supernatural hero of the early chanbara films, but as a case of psychological alienation. The linear plot of the early epics has become a labyrinthine plot. The samurai of this story does very little. Mostly he is passive. Mostly he lets things happen to him. He is clueless about the whole conspiracy around him.

Tokugawa set up a system of spies to control the empire he created and defend it from the defeated Toyotomi clan. A man is cornered in a dark alley and killed by Tatewaki Koriyama, a Tokugawa spy. A white-clad ninja named Sakon Takatani introduces himself in front of the camera, also a Tokugawa spy but jealous of Tatewaki Koriyama. The spies climb buildings like spiders in the dark of the night and kill silently. Shigeyuki Koremura is the leader of the opposite spy system, the one faithful to the Toyotomi clan. He is assisted by Takanosuke Nojiri. They are no less deadly: they slice the ear of a victims with a smile on their faces. The Sanada clan is neutral. One its spies is Sasuke. All of them are unemployed samurai, now reduced to starvation if they don't accept these demeaning jobs.
Sasuke meets an old acquaitance, Mitsuaki Inamura, a Toyotomi spy. They reach the nearby town, where a Christian, Yashiro, is about to be sentenced to death. Mitsuaki Inamura tells Sasuke that he turned the Christian in, so as to create a diversion and be able to sneak through town unharmed. The Tokugawa clan is trying to stop him because he knows the whereabouts of Tatewaki Koriyama, who has decided to defect to the Toyotomi faction. Sasuke can hardly believe the news, but later he finds Mitsuaki Inamura surrounded by Tokugawa agents. Sasuke kills them all, except the white-clad Sakon Takatani, who jumps from the bridge. Mitsuaki Inamura is wounded but saved. The night, though, someone murders him as they are sleeping in a brothel. The women see Sasuke near the corpse and assume that he killed him.
Sasuke finds shelter in a Buddhist temple where he meets the beautiful Omiyo. She tells him that Shigeyuki Koremura of the Toyotomi clan would like to see him. Sakon Takatani appears out of the blue, accusing Sasuke of having masterminded Mitsuaki Inamura's plan and demanding that Sasuke surrenders Tatewaki Koriyama. Again suspected of a murder (this time of a dancing woman, Okiwa, he was in love with), he is chased by the crowd and saved by Sakon and (surprisingly) delivered unconscious to the house of Jinnai, an old man, apparently a friend of Koremura and clearly a Christian (crucifixes all over the house). Both Shigeyuki Koremura and Takanosuke Nojiri are there to meet with him. Because Sakon rescued him, they think that Sasuke is siding with Tokugawa against Toyotomi. The very girl who was murdered was working for Sakon. They think Sasuke did commit both murders and that he is trying to capture Tatewaki Koriyama by himself. There is damning evidence: a letter written by Tatewaki Koriyama in person to Sasuke asking for help. They offer Sasuke money if he delivers Tatewaki Koriyama as Mitsuaki Inamura was supposed to. Takanosuke Nojiri are there to meet with him. Sasuke instead suspects that Sakon killed both Mitsuaki Inamura and the dancing girl Okiwa hoping that Sasuke would lead him to Tatewaki Koriyama.
Omiyo tells Sasuke that she has been enslaved by Takanosuke Nojiri, and Sasuke advises her to leave as soon as possible, because Sakon may kill anyone. Omiyo, jealous when she hears that Sasuke truly loved the dancing girl Okiwa, runs away, but is kidnapped by the men of the magistrate who is trying to arrest Sasuke. Sakon appears and helps Sasuke, but Omiyo has already been spirited away. Sakon offers money for Tatewaki Koriyama. Sasuke simply asks help to free the girl. Sakon laughs and gives him two men. In return Sasuke gives him the letter that contains the name of the inn where Tatewaki Koriyama is waiting. (Sakon also denies having killed Mitsuaki Inamura).
Sasuke frees Omiyo and also the Christian, Yashiro, who had been left to die a horrible death. They then deliver the Christian to Jinnai, the old Christian man. Yashiro asks the old man about his father. Sasuke asks who is Yashiro's father. The old man replies that Yashiro is the son of Tatewaki Koriyama, who is his (Jinnai's) son, although he reneged on his faith and became a spy. Jinnai doesn't know where his son is. Jinnai tells Sasuke that the magistrate tortured and killed the good priest of the Buddhist temple in order to find out where he, Sasuke, went. Sasuke says that now he knows on which side he is, presumably opposed to Tokugawa and therefore with Toyotomi, i.e. on the same side as Shigeyuki Koremura. Thus he helps Shigeyuki Koremura decode correctly Tatewaki Koriyama's letter, using his son's name as the key, and figures out the location where they can find him.
The location is the shrine where a festival is about to start. Finding Tatewaki Koriyama is like a puzzle, especially in the big crowd of the festival. But Sasuke manages to read all the clues and find the legendary spy. Tatewaki Koriyama has been wounded by Sakon's men when he escaped from Tokugawa: that is the reason that he needs Sasuke's help. The ghostly Sakon and his men appear. A fight breaks out, in the middle of the colorful and noisy festival. Finally Sakon and Shigeyuki Koremura, the leaders of the two armies of spies, fight it out alone. Sakon kills Koremura but Sasuke arrives in time to kill Sakon.
Sakon, the Christians and Omiyo leave town and try to reach the border. Yashiro, who never recovered from the tortures, dies just when they pass it. Sasuke asks Omiyo to marry him. But then Takanosuke Nojiri, Omiyo's master, appears in the mist. Sasuke accuses him of murdering both Okiwa and Mitsuaki Inamura. Takanosuke Nojiri coldly declares that he wants to kill both Sasuke and Omiyo. And that he has just killed Tatewaki Koriyama. They duel in the fields. Sasuke is about to succumb when a friend appears from the mist and kills Sakon.

Shinju Ten No Amijima/ Double Suicide (1969) a masterpiece

Yari No Gonza (1989), dramma arcaico, cerimoniali sociali.

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(Copyright © 2003 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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