“Of Love and Honor” (Bushi no Ichibun) (2006)

High production values. Fits the genre to a T: melodramatic and predictable, with overwrought weather elements and even a cameo by Ogata Ken as an Obi-wan Kenobi figure (the facetiousness of such an analogy is fully warranted imho). In other words, dull viewing.

At one point, the movie presents a possibility that it could transcend its banality: the lead Mimura has divorced his wife for sleeping with another man in order to keep him fed, and modern audiences would no doubt be ambivalent about Mimura. Hence watching him seek revenge would have been interesting. But it’s soon revealed that the other man had lied. The wife Kayo reverts to being a cardboard Oshin, the other man is suddenly just another stock villain, and Mimura has an empty, heroic, crowd-pleasing gloss. Naturally, the film winds up with a wholly unrealistic ending, stopping along the way for the obligatory fight scene.

Director Yamada Yoji is best suited to mining humour from scenes of humdrum existence, and the early scenes with the low-ranking samurai food tasters are the best. As a whole though, this movie is cinematically insipid.

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