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Japan, 1952 (MIFF 1958, Programme 10)

Director: Tatsuo Osone

In 17th century Japan it was the custom for the Shogun to leave with his concubines certain tokens; the first man to appear at court bearing these tokens, proving his identity as the Shogun's son, was accepted as his heir. When Jokai Tokugawa arrives at court to stake his claim as the Shogun's heir, the gallant Baron Mondonosuke Sotome, of the palace guard, at once suspects he is an impostor; he sends Kyoyo, his page, disguised as a woman, to spy on Jokai's household. Mondonosuke befriends Kojira, a real son of the Shogun. Jokai retaliates by kidnapping the Baron's sister, and after Kyoyo has managed to rescue her, Jokai ensures that Mondonosuke is ordered to commit hara-kiri for disrespectful behaviour.

More it would be unwise to reveal. It is sufficient to say there an exciting denouement which owes everything to Hamlet.

The remarkable Rashomon and Seven Samurai provided an exciting but scarcely typical introduction to Japanese cinema. This is a more conventional production, a cloak and dagger story of intrigues, ambushes and duels. The plot may appear stylised to Western audiences; but on the other hand, the strangeness of the idiom is full of fascination; the tense, watchful immobility of the playing; the outbursts of savage, ritual swordplay, the songs and ceremonial combine to make the film a great enjoyable than its Western counterparts.

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