Where one sees artistry, the other sees schlock, but can the twain really never meet?
First of all for Edgar’s review head over to Between The Seats, you know the drill people!
Digging right into your review, our main difference of opinion appears to be the seriousness, or artistic sensibilities of Kozure Ôkami: Ko Wo Kashi Ude Kashi Tsukamatsuru. I respect your take that Kenji Misumi was not aiming for any sort of artistic high ground. Yet I disagree with your take. The grime that you speak of is present, and just like you I felt that the film had a very grindhouse feel to it. Unlike you I saw a director shooting for art mixed with low brow entertainment. In moments like the showdown in the river, or the beheading in the field I think Misumi-san very clearly puts an artistic spin on his film.
The story itself is also screaming out for artistic recognition. The idea of the wandering ronin is central to a lot of Japanese literature and to the Japanese sense of honor. Essentially what I am saying, as I did in my review, is that the film is dirty and grimy, but it also aspires to be something a bit more. It does this through its visuals as well as in the way it ties its story into the Japanese way of life.
I agree with you about the general acting in the film. It was very arch, but I did not for the most part have a problem with that. Where I would disagree with you is the performance of Tomoko Mayama as Osen. True, she is trying for something more in her performance. However, unlike you I do not believe she ever reaches that something more. The fault does not lay with her mind you, but rather with the story and the directorial choices of Misumi-san. The sequence of events that Mayama-chan is involved in is when the film most falters in its delineation between grindhouse and art. The performance of Mayama-chan fails to overcome the facts that her rape scene and subsequent topless scene are not needed because of a rape scene and topless scene that have come before. This overwhelms any attempts at a higher performance from Mayama-chan.
I do agree with your take on the story of Kozure Ôkami: Ko Wo Kashi Ude Kashi Tsukamatsuru. There is certainly something to the story, but it is unfinished and that hurts the film. I have no doubt that this means the following entries will be stronger, but it leaves the story conveyed in Kozure Ôkami: Ko Wo Kashi Ude Kashi Tsukamatsuru very weak. However, truth be told I would take Misumi-san’s first effort in the series over either of the Kill Bill films. Misumi-san’s film is more honest to what it is. While Kozure Ôkami: Ko Wo Kashi Ude Kashi Tsukamatsuru suffers from the same “unfinished story” problems as are found in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 I still find Misumi-san’s effort to be a more energetic effort that is more worthy of my time than Mr. Tarantino’s usual brand of cribbing.
There’s not much else for me to say in this rebuttal. I think we are both in agreement that after Kozure Ôkami: Ko Wo Kashi Ude Kashi Tsukamatsuru we are looking forward to discovering the rest of the franchise. Our main difference is in that of artistry versus grindhouse revenge tale. In that realm I do not envision you and I seeing eye to eye. Our blades were swift, and our strikes we’re deadly, leaving us with another week where we both lay bloodied on the battlefield and still at an impasse.\
Go check out Edgar’s rebuttal at Between The Seats.