|Sword of Desperation|
Directed by: Hideyuki Hirayama
Starring: Etsushi Toyokawa, Chizuru Ikewaki and Kôji Kikkawa
A talented but troubled Edo Period swordsman, Kanemi Sanzawmon. Three years earlier, Kanemi killed a woman, Renko, the corrupt mistress of the powerful daimyo Tabu Ukyou. Unexpectedly, Kanemi received a lenient sentence for his crime and is allowed to return to his clan after only one year of imprisonment. Following his return, Kanemi is faced with the death of his wife, Mutsue.
Thereafter, Kanemi lives with and cares for his wife's niece, Satoo, who has secret affections for Kanemi and expresses them by helping change his bleak outlook on life. Meanwhile, Kanemi's develops his unique "bird-catching" sword technique which he will soon put to test in battle for the first time against the fearsome swordsman, Hayatonosho Obiya.
"Sword of Desperation" presents a calculated tale of political intrigue punctuated by spurts of philosophy and forbidden romances. Whether or not the film explains why Kanemi was given such a light sentence by the man whose love he killed is irrelevant, as the story fully shows why Kanemi would possibly be driven to what characters in the film describe as "an act of insolence." The heart of the film is Kanemi's inner redemption and re-assimilation into a world he's not sure he can understand, let alone trust anymore. Thankfully, Etsushi Toyokawa, who is tasked with making Kanemi a believable character turns in an incredibly humane performance; even when the scene calls for him to defend the safety of others with his life, Toyokawa handles the situation with a calm confidence, doing some great facial acting that illustrates to viewers he's a man willing to take a life but not pleased to do so.
This movie is based on writer Shuhei Fujisawa's short novel which was part of his "Hidden Sword" series that includes "The Hidden Blade," "Love and Honor," and the Oscar-nominated "The Twilight Samurai". It is an excellent samurai drama that shows the way of samurai (Bushido), and frequently corrupt politics of the clan. The sword fighting scenes are some of the best (as it is with the other two novels that were made into movies), and comes closest to the ones done in the golden age of samurai movies. It's an explosive story with unexpected twist at every turn, and it is highly recommended for viewing..
2010 Color Anamorphic Widescreen 114 Mins.
Japanese with English subtitles