Jűsan-nin no shikaku
Japan, 2010, 126 min
Cult filmmaker Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, SFIFF 2002; Izo, SFIFF 2005) delivers possibly his most surprising film of all, a nearly straightforward homage to the glory days of Japanese swordplay movies. A remake of a little known (at least in the West) 1963 film by Eiichi Kudo, 13 Assassins begins in 1844, when the noble samurai Sinzaemon Shimada (Koji Yakusho, Charisma, SFIFF 2000; Babel 2006) is chosen to assassinate the brutal and extremely well-protected Lord Naritsugu (a giddily sadistic Goro Inagaki). A job this daunting needs more than a few good men; Shimada slowly recruits a dirty dozen of them, some more willing than others to kill and, most likely, die. All roads, of course, lead to a final showdown: our 13 assassins versus literally hundreds of villains in a remarkable, roughly 45-minute battle scene filled with life, death and dynamite—a sequence that finds Miike holding his own against any Kurosawa, Inagaki or Leone set piece. While inserting his dry humor and a few of his trademark over-the-top moments, Miike otherwise refuses any snide genre send-ups or satire here, instead focusing on the simple pleasures of a well-crafted genre film. “13 Assassins is a samurai terror film showing the flowers of life and death,” he notes. “Simple, radical, beautiful.”
Special support for this program generously provided by Penelope Wong and Tim Kochis.