ALL3920 Week 16


Position Papers please.
You should be working on your final paper by now.
E-mail with any questions or for advice on sources.
Good luck!


The protagonist of Twilight Samurai, Seibei Iguchi, is quite different from the characters in many of the other films we’ve watched for this class. For starters, unlike the protagonists of most of the films we’ve watched, Seibei belongs to a clan rather than being a ronin. This, however, does not mean that Seibei is financially any better off than many of the ronin protagonists of the other films we’ve watched. Although Seibei does have some income from his clan, he is a low-ranking samurai and much of his finances are tied up in debts related to the sickness that his wife had died from. Because of this, he does jobs on the side to make enough money to get by and provide for his two daughters. This leaves him with little time to take care of his personal hygiene, and no time to fraternize with his coworkers after hours. This leads to his fellow samurai having a very bad opinion of him, mocking him for having to always head straight home and commenting behind his back about his body odor. This contrasts severely with the dapper and clean-cut characters we’ve had in the last several films.
Another key difference between Seibei and many other protagonists we’ve viewed thus far is that although Seibei is a great swordsman, he has no desire for that fact to be known. He goes out of his way to conceal it, in fact, going so far as to request his friend not tell anyone about how thoroughly he thrashed Koda in his duel with him. Seibei then said that his victory was basically just a lucky fluke when he was confronted about it later in the castle. This is quite a bit different from most of the protagonists from other films who revel in their excellent swordsmanship.
In addition to this, Seibei is the first protagonist we’ve had who was an expert swordsman willing to sell his sword. Although we don’t find out about this until the final confrontation near the end of the film, it is yet another thing that sets Seibei apart from the rest and speaks volumes of his character and priorities. He had no choice but to sell his sword to be able to pay for a fitting funeral for his wife, so although it pained him to do so, he sold his sword. This behavior was seen as so offensive and indecent by his final opponent that it is what led to a fight to the death, rather than Seibei just allowing him to escape.

The actor playing Seibei also played Kenji in Rush Hour 3, which I enjoyed, as a Rush Hour fan. (Though, I'll admit, this movie won a few more awards than did Rush Hour.) He was an antagonist in Rush Hour, and the (rather pitiable) protagonist in this one, so it provided an interesting contrast. Other than that, the story was interesting and fairly novel. It attempted to paint late-Tokugawa samurai in a rather mundane light, rather than emphasizing the warrior aspect. It was especially interesting considering the generally negative view other characters took regarding Seibei. Even by the end, he is still regarded as unfortunate, pathetic and hapless. His daughter, the narrator, defends him, claiming he never wished for anything special. I thought this was especially interesting. He did not achieve fame or win everybody's approval; he was merely fighting for the survival of his family (ultimately his daughter), and he dies without achieving much more than that. The story could therefore be considered a familial narrative more than a romanticization or account of "samurai life." (Even though this family is a fictional one.) This interpretation is especially humbling when we find out he dies three years later in a war, suggesting that even his last minute marriage would not entail a happy ending.
Except for the two duel scenes, the film takes a rather meandering pace, another noteworthy (if at times disengaging) aspect of a "samurai" film. It won a handful of awards (including a bunch from the Japanese Academy of film, such as Best Actor, Best Director and Best Film), as well as earning a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. I did not find much to speak of in terms of the cinematography; nothing really jumped out at me. (This, despite its Best Cinematography award by the Japanese Academy, indicating either a slow year or my ignorance.) One thing I did notice was, during the duel with Koda, we see Seibei occupying the high ground, and if the final installment of the Star Wars saga pounded anything into my brain, it's that he with the high ground will win the duel. (Thank you, George Lucas, for the tattooed image of Hayden Christenson burning alive in my head.)

Twilight Samurai

In this film we follow the hardships and life of Seibei Iguchi. It quiet different then the other action pack films we’ve previously watched. Instead of more action we follow Iguchi in his normal day life. He provides for his two daughters and elderly mother. You find out that taking care of his family was his priority instead of drinking with his fellow samurai. It seems that the other samurai call him “twilight” and we find out that he wears faded, tattered, and ripped kimono. It seems that he works at a bean house and other dried foods warehouse. The lord notices that Iguchi is unkempt and comments that a clean retainer must set an example for the common folk. Later we find that Tomoe returns and spends a lot of time with his family. Her ex-husband come and demands to see and Iguchi fights him with a wooden sword. This in the first fight scene we see. He defeats her ex-husband. He is later ordered to kill a man. He is on his way with other samurai to kill the man. In the last struggle he ends up killing him and returns home.

In the opening scene they fade in from black and we see a body covered in a white cloth. We find that a woman has died of consuming, is the mother of the narrator. What is different in this film is that there is a woman narrating. We find that she is narrarating the life of her father Seibei. The funeral procession that takes place was quiet grand. The long shot taken of all the people lined up was incredible. You can see the front of the line slowly get smaller towards the end. The next scene that was noticeable to me was when both Iguchi and his daughter recited Confusion together in front of the fire. We find that the seasons also change in this film from winter to spring. In one scene they are standing in front of a wall firing guns. In the background you can see the cherry blossoms. It’s quiet beautiful since you can see a part of a castle in the back ground. The fight scene between Iguchi and the ex-husband was interesting. Iguchi who was using the wooden sword defeated the husband who used a metal sword. It looked like they were both struggling. Iguchi’s final hit on his head was amazing, knocking him out. In a later scene we see that Tomoe is cleaning and cutting Iguchi’s hair. It seemed like a very intimate thing for her to do although they are not married. When they reached the home of the man they are to kill, you see him sitting in a dark room almost gloomy setting. In their fight, he uses a sword and ends up killing him after he is cut a few times. On returning home, his daughters run to him and shot to Tomoe that their father has returned. Tomoe cries and we find out that they were married however Iguchi dies in the Boshin war. The last scene we see Kayano praying in front of the tombstone of her father. Stating that her father had no desire to climb up in the world, that he rather have the love of his family. This film is very touching and over all it has become one of my favorites that we’ve watch thus far.

Twilight Samurai had a completely different feel to it than most of the other movies we have watched. This is probably due to several reasons. First, the movie was narrated by a woman. I think that gave the movie a softer feel. The music also gave the movie a softer feel. It was slow paced with some high flutes and low drums. I liked the music, but it wasn't exciting and fast pace. Therefore, it complimented the lack of action in the movie. Another aspect that set the movie apart from the others was the relationship between Seibei and Tomoe. Seeing there romantic relationship develope was very entertaining and completely different from the man-woman relationships we've seen in other movies. Seibei actually treated her with respect and she wasn't portrayed as a stupid woman. I think that since this was released in 2002, the portrayal of woman in the movie is different...which is a good thing. The last thing that sets this movie apart from the other jidaigeki we have watched is the main character. Seibei is a caring, loving man who has no desire to fight. This accounts for the lack of action in the movie, but adds to the emotional aspect. Also, the action scenes we do see are that much more exciting. I really liked this different kind of main character. Seibei was very likeable.

Some things I noticed about the movie in general, where the costumes. They were very befitting of everyone's status. A lot of the poor people in the other movies we have watched would just wear rags, but in Twilight Samurai, Seibei has rips/holes and dirt on his hakuma and tabi which I think is more realistic. Also, that fact that he smells is a very good portrayal of his rank. I think this movie does a good job of getting the audience psyched up for the battles because Seibei is reluctant and nervous and you are not sure how things will end up. Also because he uses a short sword, it makes it seem like he is at a disadvantage which we learn is actually the opposite. Another thing that was realistic about this movie is when Zenemon dies. Unlike Sword of Doom and most of the other movies, it takes a while for Zenemon to die after he has been slashed. I really liked this movie and appreciated its uniqueness.

Twilight Samurai
The story begins with sorrow as the wife of Seibei is pronounced died. The youngest girl of the Seibei household becomes the narrator of the story. I really liked this small detail; it seemed to give a more personal feel to the movie and confirms to the audience what is really going on.
I liked the camera sweep when Seibei first walks home. He picks up his littlest girl and the camera then moves outwards to show his place of residence. I thought this was an excellent way to use the crane shot.
Every scene is smooth and clear. I don’t think there was one scene transition that was sudden or abrupt. All the shots were fairly close and focusing on the character’s facial expressions. When the Uncle of Seibei arrives to deliver the news of Seibei remarrying, the Uncle’s face was very expressive. His face was stern and rigid, which I thought expressed his discontent and disgust with Seibei and his current living conditions. Seibei’s facial expression in comparison was nervous but light. I thought this film did a really nice job focusing on the shots on the characters.
Many of the scenes were shot from the ground. When Seibei’s Uncle comes to talk to him about remarriage the camera was placed low at an angle so that both characters were seen. Later when Seibei accepts Kando’s challenge we see their battle by the river. The camera is placed once again low by the bank and is placed with some distance in order to capture the entire challenge. Even though Kando is thrown to the ground he makes one last lunge and Seibei jumps above him outside of the shot and lands behind me hitting Kando with the victory hit on the head. I thought it was funny that the cuckoo bird was heard before the challenge and then starts its song after Kando falls.
During the matsuri the camera watches the dragon as its head snaps at the audience and finally sets its eyes on the camera itself. The camera then becomes one of the audience’s view-point as the dragon snaps towards the camera. I liked how the camera became another view-point instead of a narrative view-point.

Twilight Samurai is refreshingly different from the other Jidaigeki films that we have seen in several ways. I particularly liked the fact that it seemed to depict an accurate portrayal of the daily lives of samurai, including their monotonous jobs in the castles.
I liked that the main character has daughters, and that he views these girls as being valuable as people, not just as assets to be benefited from after successful future marriages. He also respects his mother and continues to provide the best care for her that he can, despite her continuing deterioration. The notion of women being their own people with complex personalities and emotions has been absent in the majority of the Jidaigeki films we have seen so far. For the most part women have been portrayed as only helpless victims and sexual objects.
Iguchi respects all women too, not just his daughters, he is concerned for Tomoe’s well being after being told of her violent marriage. Iguchi is not alone in this feeling either, his friend Iinuma, Tomoe’s sister is equally offended by the treatment his received by her ex-husband. In past films we have seen women abused and raped by their husbands and other men and very rarely has their been any sort of vengeance on their behalf.
Apart from the storyline, I felt that the acting was superb and the soundtrack was very fitting for each scene. However, I didn’t feel that there was anything particularly special about the cinematography, the shots and camera angles were very bland.

Twilight Samurai is a recent film directed in 2002 by Yoji Yamada. The film follows the life of Seibei, a poor samurai living in the late Tokugawa period. This film is undoubtedly different than anything we have watched in the course, as it is not about a heroic ronin or samurai by any means. Most films we have watched were either propaganda, or trying to send a message about good, yet lawbreaking ronin. In fact, something strikingly different about this film is that it doesn’t really focus on Seibei as a samurai alone but more on his clan and how it copes with his troubles. However this is not to say that Seibei doesn’t do heroic things, as he is still a good character. This film is a lot more realistic than anything we have watched in my opinion.
Of course, something interesting about this film is its lack of action. However, there are two major battles that make the film special. The first one is when Seibei duals his love Tomoe’s drunken and abusive ex-husband Koda. In this battle, Seibei doesn’t use a katana but instead a wooden stick. It would seem that Koda has the upper hand, but Seibei ends up being victorious, saving Tomoe from Koda’s wrath. The next battle is the final battle, in which Seibei is hesitant about. He’s ordered to kill Yogo, a ronin who is supposed to commit seppuku but won’t. Again, Seibei doesn’t use a katana, but instead a short sword. Ironically, this helps him as Yogo’s long katana gets stuck and Seibei ends up victorious. In both of these battles, Seibei is portrayed as the weaker and lesser samurai, but it is his goodness as a person, which brings him out on top.
It would seem that Seibei is not so caught up in the bushido or being a good samurai, but rather providing for his family and caring for his loved ones. He sells his katana for his wife’s funeral, he saves Tomoe from her ex-husband, and he fails to bathe in order to provide for his daughters. Even though Seibei is insulted as a “twilight samurai”, it doesn’t really phase him as he continues to try to do the right thing.
Twilight Samurai to me seemed more realistic as a film. It is not heroic, and the fight scenes are not overdramatic. It is a very mellow yet poignant film that expresses the daily life of the samurai Seibei. I feel that this may be how most samurai lived their daily lives as opposed to the samurai in the other films we watched

Twilight Samurai was a nice change from the other jidaigkei films we have seen. There were a lot of things that were very different from past films that really stuck out to me. One of the first things I noticed that was also very surprising was the fact that the youngest daughter was narrating the story. It seemed very unusual to hear a woman’s voice narrating because it always seems like if there is a narrator, it is always a man. I think that because it was the daughter who was telling the story, it gave the film a very different mood; it felt a lot more reflective, as if telling the story was a way to honor Seibei instead of telling some sort of epic tale of good versus evil about a heroic warrior.

Another thing that was obviously out of the ordinary was the main character himself, Seibei. Not only was it different to see a samurai who worked in more of an office-type setting, it was strange that he had no aspirations beyond taking care of his family. Although he earned little money and was virtually no better off than a ronin, he did nothing to try and change his situation. In fact, at one point he mentioned how he would like to become a farmer once the samurai class ceased to exist. Compared to all the other samurai in the different films, this idea seems a little crazy because even the poorest ronin in previous films never even considered farming, so far as I can remember. The closest example I can think of is the ninja from Shinobi no mono who wanted to give up being a ninja, but the samurai class just seems too proud to quit being a samurai.

I really liked that Seibei was a good guy but that he didn’t have to be constantly fighting off bad guys to show it. There were a couple of cool fight scenes (I really enjoyed the one where he fights Tomoe’s ex-husband with a practice stick and knocked him unconscious) but he was able to be a good guy just by taking care of his daughters and putting his family ahead of his career. It was also nice to see that, for once, the main character had a normal relationship with his love interest; for example, he didn’t rape her, they didn’t fall for each other and then he decides he can’t be with her so that he can focus on his training instead, etc.

This film takes a very realistic approach to describing the poverty of a lower class samurai, and focuses a lot on the ins and outs of everyday life for Seibei. Seibei himself, however, does not see himself in terms of his poverty, and delights in his family life, not caring about rising through the ranks. He also says that he could just as well be a farmer, solidifying just how unattached he is to his class as a samurai. Seibei's character came off as very sweet, as he possessed a lot of values that would be seen as an ideal man today (hell, I'd marry him). Unfortunately, these values only came off as idiotic to most of the other people in the film. This movie also elevates the value of women compared to the other films we've seen. Tomoe is a smart woman who, like Seibei, disregards some social rules for the sake of a more full life.
As for camera work, it seemed to usually be close enough to include all the important elements of a scene. If two people were talking, not much else was in the frame. If one person was the focus, the camera would get closer. Exceptions would be scenes that try to include some of the beautiful scenery and sky. Indoors, the camera was often angles diagonally through a doorway, giving a frame on either side but still showing everything in the next room. A lot of the time people would be arranged in a scene occupying the foreground, middle ground, and background (one good example would be after Seibei knocks down Koda the first time, Koda's shoulder and head occupied the lower right in the foreground, Seibei was kneeling in the middle ground, and Iinuma stood farther away in the back in between the two). The camera movement was also very smooth and fluid. When Tomoe first came into the house, Seibei sits down to take off his socks and hears an unfamiliar voice behind him. As he slowly turns around, the camera also shifts its angle so we can see behind him, showing us what he now sees too. In the duel scene, the camera keeps the two fighters in frame, shifting from side to side slightly as they go back and forth.

First of all, I really liked this movie, perhaps more than all the others we've watched, and that may have to do with the fact that the main character was played by Hiroyuki Sanada, an actor I actually know and really like. He was great in the last samurai and I was really excited to see not only someone I knew in this movie, but someone whom I know is a good actor. That being said, I also enjoyed his character because he reminded me of my favorite character from another program, an anime called Rurouni Kenshin. It think it was because Seibei was so dedicated to his family that he was willing to pay or risk anything, like when he sold his sword to make sure his wife had a proper funeral.

On top of that, I admired the fact that he was truly humble about his skill with a sword. It seems odd to me that we see, time after time, samurai that are incredibly proud of their skills and who like to flaunt it, when Japanese society is very specific on how one is supposed to be humble. With this in mind, I think Seibei manages to outshine all his other samurai counterparts or companions because he is more of a true samurai.

Another interesting aspect of this movie is the connection I made with the time portrayed in the movie and modern day social etiquette (for lack of a better term). I know from both my studies and from experience with my host fathers that it is very important for men, particularly businessmen, to go out after work and have drinks with other men from the office. While it's not necessarily the end of the world if you don't go, it will definitely effect how your coworkers view you, and not in a positive way. This can bee seen in Twilight Samurai when Seibei rushes home to take care of his ailing mother and daughters instead of 'bonding' with his fellow samurai. Because of this, he is made fun of and looked down upon. I would be interested to know if that's modern day influence sneaking into the movie, or if historically that's where the tradition came from.

Twilight Samurai was undoubtedly, the most different film from any we’ve seen for this class. In addition to being the most modern film, I believe that it was the most touching and story driven film in this genre that we’ve been introduced to so far. The story is just fantastic, following the life of Seibei, a samurai who gets by on very little to support his two daughters and his aging mother. For once, we see a samurai with a master, as Seibei is part of a clan. It is also interesting that we see the daily chores of the samurai, as Seibei’s job appears to be keeping inventory of food stocks. Seibei never hangs out with his fellows outside of his duties as a samurai and only cares to take care of his family. Little do we know that Seibei, as pathetic as he seems, is quite skilled with the sword. We find this out of course, when he duels Kono over the love interest Tomoe. Eventually, Seibei is ordered by his clan to kill a man, and this confrontation is certainly interesting. The men have a heartfelt talk, revealing their innermost secrets and hardships that they’ve gone through. With the intent of letting the man escape, Seibei reveals that he had sold his katana in order to pay for a fitting funeral for his wife. After this, the man draws his sword and fights Seibei to the death. Seibei’s mastery of the short sword affords him the advantage as his opponent’s blade gets caught, allotting Seibei the fatal strike. After this confrontation, Seibei returns home to his daughters, mother, and a Tomoe ready to wed him. Interestingly, we learn from the narrator (Seibei’s youngest daughter), of Seibei’s death in a war three years later. We learn that Seibei never wanted much from the world, only spending time with his family was all that he needed.
What really made this film stand out from all the others that we’ve watched was the story. It was the first time I’ve felt the narrative did not have to be moved forward by some spectacular action scene. There was only action in two scenes, the duel with Kono and the fight at the end, neither of which involved a man slaughtering dozens upon dozens of opponents at once. I wanted to keep watching to learn more of the story, as it was the focus of the film, and as it felt more important than seeing how many Seibei could slay at once. I am very happy that we end on this film, as it certainly was my favorite during the class.

Twilight Samurai was an enjoyable film, but difficult to categorize other than being a historical drama. It was not really a comedy, nor a tragedy, nor all that action filled. The only main theme that was followed through until the end was the romance between Seibei and Tomoe. Despite this lack in forced emotion, it was really nice to see children featured as semi main characters and a protagonist who isn’t detestable, yet still skilled at what he does.The film seems to show that even when things have changed from the samurai days, some men can hold on to honour. The way that all of the samurai at the 'office' go out to drink after work draws a strong connection between the present and past. With this, modern viewers might be able to relate more strongly to the characters and see that those they think are dirty and poor still may have more virtue and skill than their well off, arrogant counterparts. The film even includes scenes of people fishing leisurely and going to festivals for fun. These are aspects of every day life that have been absent from past films we have watched, which focus more on the action and manipulation that go on between varying degrees of evil characters.

It was strange to watch a jidaigeki film that was made so recently. Others that we have seen were in colour, which indeed stood out, but the colours in Twilight Samurai were less abrasive. This being the case, they still stood out by being almost dull, muted at least. This conspicuous play of colour and the female voiceover put it not far from feeling like a modern bit of cinema. The voiceover reminds me of Memoirs of a Geisha, except that there is little mention made of the future of the child speaking except that we now see that she is remembering those events and must have lived on to an older age.

The pacing in Yoji Yamada’s “Twilight Samurai” is much different from previous jidaegeki we’ve watched. It’s as though this jidaegeki is more focused on the philosophical and emotional action between characters instead of the physical confrontations between samurai and antagonist. Whereas in previous movies, the action would be fast and furious, full of swordplay and dramatis personae, this film paces the actions of its character a bit slower than most, although the same sort of mythic qualities in the protagonist are present. Seibei is a samurai who is well-trained in a certain martial art, has an almost god-like sense of patience and humility, is degraded right away as he cannot keep his household in order and must constantly wear dirty robes, while at the same time is righteous and ends up succeeding in the end just as the previous jidaegeki characters do. Yet almost every shot seems very meticulous, very sleepy even, lulling the audience into the setting and downplaying the events of the film that occur.

For example, the final fight scene between Seibei and the rogue samurai Zenemon is mostly focused on the discussion between the two over their respective paths in life. It is only in the last minute and a half that action even takes place, and that action goes quickly. Instead of close-up shots depicting the action, as we’ve seen in the more modern jidaegeki, we have medium-long to long shots of the action, which is often covered by panels and walls throughout the house. Even Zenemon’s death scene is mostly a long shot as he says his goodbyes. The close-up shots are all used earlier in the tea-taking scene between Seibei and Zenemon, as though the director was focused on the verbal sparring between them as opposed to the actual fight scene. In this way, we see that the action in this movie is more metaphysical, depicted in the struggle Seibei faces as a samurai leading an abnormal lifestyle as a single parent in a rigid societal culture that expects certain behaviors and social constructs Seibei either can’t afford to or won’t behoove himself to follow.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Anderson published on May 3, 2010 8:28 AM.

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