Monday, December 15, 2008

Tsukigami or The Haunted Samurai

I knew that I could count on some fun with a Japanese film whose title was The Haunted Samurai. Three years ago, when I was totally under the thrall of Western Media and had no access to anything but Hollywood or Bollywood or other Indian cinematic offerings, my expectations from Japanese film-making would have been sex and gore of the most perverted genre.

But visiting Malaysia opened to me the gates of an amazing audio visual perception of diverse cultures: I have since viewed films from Thailand, Korea, Japan, China, The Philippines, and even lately, one Greek film!

And although I have digested some violent Japanese films ( Boiling Point, for example), my basic journey of initiation into Nipponese cinema took the path of The Twilight Samurai, Train Man, Udon and so many others, to lead me to an entirely new perception of the Japanese psyche as delicate, tender, and value based. And this is what made me buy and view this incredible film.

Director Furuhata Yasuo and cinematographer Kimura Daisaku cast the cute young Tsumabuki Satoshi in the lead role for this wacky period film version of a novel by Asada Jiro "Tsukigami".

Bessho Hikoshiro is a struggling to survive in the caste system of the Bakumatsu era. Separated from his rich wife and son, he now lives with his good for nothing elder brother and wife. A noodle seller tells him that one of his friends, Enomoto, rose in life after praying at a shrine in Mukojima.

One night, a drunken Hikoshiro tumbles down off the road near a small neglected shrine and thinks he has found the one in Mukojima. He offers a prayer ...

Which is answered but alas! Not in quite the way he imagined as one after the other the God of Poverty Iseya, the God of Disease Kuzuryu, and the 1200-year-old God of Death , come to plague him.

The film shows us how he deals with and outwits them. It took me totally by surprise with its enchanting way of tackling the theme. The Rap style music is very foot tapping and way in which the titles roll at the end is delightful.

Death as the Grim Reaper we can live with but who can resist the form it takes in this film?