Author Topic: 13 Assassins  (Read 998 times)

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Mr. Merrill Lehrl

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13 Assassins
« on: June 06, 2011, 02:08:15 AM »
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Director:  Takashi Miike
Writers:  Kaneo Ikegami (based on a screenplay by), Daisuke Tengan (screenplay)

http://www.13assassins.com/ (trailer on site)

There probably would already be a topic for this if there were fans of Miike on the board.  Not much enthusiasm for him in his thread either.  This was probably my favorite of his that I've seen, between this and Graveyard of Honor (for sheer outrageousness it'd be between Dead or Alive and Visitor Q).

Flirts with the moral seriousness of a Kobayashi film (his decision to remake Harakiri makes more sense after seeing 13 Assassins), the complexity of a Kurosawa film, and always with slivers of Miike style absurdity.  He has both light and heavy personal touches and this one especially reminds me of the William Gass quote about using hyperbole to reach the otherwise unobtainable.  Lord Naritsugu's final scene is appropriately nasty, jarring, surprising, dirty, and poignant.
“If I had to hold up the most heavily fortified bank in America,” Bolaño says, “I’d take a gang of poets. The attempt would probably end in disaster, but it would be beautiful.”

pete

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Re: 13 Assassins
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2011, 03:48:49 AM »
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I saw it. good stuff. there were little brilliant moments here and there but also a lot of filler. there was some real nice lines of dialogue, as well as some good re-packaging of conventions, amidst the usual genre cliches and dull action sequences. maybe I like twilight samurai too much. or that comicbook Vagabond. it just feels a kinda average movie for something to have garnered so much attention especially overseas.
“Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot.”
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Mr. Merrill Lehrl

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Re: 13 Assassins
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2011, 03:54:03 AM »
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You may be right to say it doesn't raise the bar for samurai movies, though I think it raises for bar for Miike's filmmaking.  Or is at least yet another side to him.  If I may cross reference, how do you think this compares to The Warlords which I know you liked.
“If I had to hold up the most heavily fortified bank in America,” Bolaño says, “I’d take a gang of poets. The attempt would probably end in disaster, but it would be beautiful.”

pete

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Re: 13 Assassins
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2011, 02:48:34 PM »
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I guess he's never been as serious as this film, but I do miss the joy he exudes in movies like crow's zero, I thought we'd see duels of that calibre at least.

I can't really compare this to the warlords - that movie was more of a revisionist historical drama - a gangster film with some battle sequences (which I guess, makes a warlord?). I liked the film because the plot is rich with morally objectionable shades and I liked that it demonstrated how exactly people profited from war - from losing, from sitting out, from hedging their bets...etc. it felt ambitious and easy to follow, which I appreciated.

very mild spoiler:
13 assassins exists in another universe - it's a men on the mission film that was relatively innocent. it even follows suit with The Expendables by reviving a dead character for comedic effect. i don't know how to compare the two - I guess this one is as innocent as the other film was cynical. this one finds honor in death and sacrifice and suicide while the other finds war to be yet another tool for the rich to get richer. It's got a gritty appearance (boy does it ever), but really just follows the samurai conventions in straightforward fashion.

I do like some of the details - for example, the warrior's shake in the very beginning of the film, and, moreso than dozens of chanbara films, this one finds a good balance between unveiling humanity in its characters while keeping the heroic and monstrous deeds intact. it does show that Japanese resolve and honor and duty in a very thorough and convincing fashion. I guess he delivered the exact samurai film that people wanted to see - complete with all that crossing sword silly stuff, while I was hoping the first japanese sword film to make a splash (bigger than zatoichi and twilight samurai and the likes) to be a little more playful and wild.
“Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot.”
- Buster Keaton

Mr. Merrill Lehrl

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Re: 13 Assassins
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2011, 06:03:04 PM »
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spoiler (major one actually)

I thought the end of 13 Assassins was overall cynical because it suggested the endless perpetuation of war and strife, or at least the endless existence of these qualities within the framework of imperfect humanity.  Because of the things the dying Lord Naritsugu said, and also because the remaining hero seems quite serious when he says he'll now become Japan's greatest bandit.  I guess I didn't consider until this literal moment that he may have meant that in a Robin Hood sort of way, is that how you took it?  Initially I thought he meant the world's such shit and I just went through a thankless battle wherein all my friends died so fuck the world.  I thought this because Miike is so so great at capturing nastiness and ugliness.

I'm also a huge fan of joy and playfulness, and Miike does that stuff really well (in his own way).  That's why I thought this one was more like a Kobayashi or Kurosawa - which I meant as a compliment although I think you're right to say it embeds the film in tradition rather than progression.

I really liked the things you said about Warlords and it makes me want to revisit the movie.
“If I had to hold up the most heavily fortified bank in America,” Bolaño says, “I’d take a gang of poets. The attempt would probably end in disaster, but it would be beautiful.”

pete

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Re: 13 Assassins
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2011, 10:54:55 PM »
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I didn't take the bandit stuff seriously; I just thought he was gonna have a new life and a bandit sounded most romantic.

I just saw two different ninja movies this year that were trying to push the genre forward but ended very very flat and a total waste of time. both started out with such video game-esque promise, but ending with tragedies so devastating and unearned that calling them pretentious isn't even the right word because they're way too goofy - one is called Goemon, the other is called Kamui. And the last thing I wanna see is a cynical samurai movie drabbed down by gravitas. I just thought Miika could be having more fun than he did with the material, especially the action sequences.

I just thought all that a-team-esque build up would pay off more, but they just ended up clashing swords anyway. there's this kungfu movie (I mostly know kungfu movies and have maybe only seen two dozen samurai movies in my life) called Master of the Flying Guillotine that ended with an epic showdown with all that a-team-esque booby traps, from the 70s. You should check it out, very goofy but satisfying.
“Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot.”
- Buster Keaton

Mr. Merrill Lehrl

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Re: 13 Assassins
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2011, 05:55:58 AM »
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I've seen Master of the Flying Guillotine theatrically during a glorious New Year's Day triple-feature programmed by the guy I spoke of in the Wu Xia thread.  It was the first and continued with Gates of Hell aka City of the Living Dead and concluded with Lady Terminator.  I've mentioned the impact Lady Terminator had on me.  That was a great day.

Kung fu movies work to an incredible degree in the theater.  The same programmer has shown 35mm prints of, that I've attended, Shaolin vs. Lama, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, Fatal Flying Guillotine, Opium and the Kung Fu Master (a GORGEOUS print), Bastard Swordsman, and Fist of the White Lotus.  He has an interesting story.  At one point he was purchasing trailers off a shady guy on eBay, and the trailers were in such great shape that he asked the guy where he was finding them.  He (the seller) didn't respond, and the programmer became suspicious.  He (the programmer) rummaged through the boxes the trailers had been sent in and found an address to a theater in the Chinatown of Vancouver BC.  Discovering the theater was closed but owned by the Shaw Bros he contacted a daughter of one of the bros and offered to salvage remaining prints from the theater for tax purposes.  The daughter agreed and sent a key.  He brought the key to the theater, which was now located in a notoriously rundown and drug heavy section of the city, and unearthed a treasure cove of film prints from beneath the screen.  These he sent to some genre society in Austin where they're being sorted and assembled.  So every now and again an event occurs.  For example my favorite was the screening of Boxer's Omen, a completely bonkers black magic Shaw Bros. kung fu film involving rats and vomit and levitation etc.  People go nuts at these screenings.  I go nuts at these screenings.
“If I had to hold up the most heavily fortified bank in America,” Bolaño says, “I’d take a gang of poets. The attempt would probably end in disaster, but it would be beautiful.”

 

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