The autumn leaves are falling like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are always two cups at my table.

T’ang Dynasty poem

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sword Film: Uzumasa Limelight

Below is an excerpt of a review and a trailer for a Japanese sword film, Uzumasa Limelight. The full review may be read here. The full film may be watched on YouTube.

For some reason, this film reminds me of the statue, The Pugilist at Rest; and also the film, Pushing Hands.

Ken Ochiai once again demonstrates his talent

by Martin Hafer
In 2015, I saw a short film that simply amazed, and was the standout entrant for me at the Orlando Film Festival. Sumo Road: The Musical was not only a very funny film that made folks laugh out loud, but was incredibly creative.  I can truly say that I've never seen another film like it.
It turns out that the same man who wrote and directed this brilliant short, Ken Ochiai, has recently begun making feature films as well...and his Uzumasa Limelight is a delight for anyone who loves samurai films or is a fan of Chaplin!  Yes, I know that is a very strange combination so I'll need to digress just a bit.

In 1952, Charlie Chaplin came out with one of his greatest and most personal films, Limelight.  However, while I would rank this among the greatest films of the 1950s, audiences were left cold by the film...mostly because being a Chaplin everyone expected it to be a comedy.  Instead, it's a bittersweet little drama about an aging and rather sad vaudevillian who has seen better days.  He befriends a young woman who ultimately becomes a big star and, because of her gratitude, she helps her beloved mentor to have one last shining moment in the sun.

Ochiai's film is a homage to Chaplin's film.  While there are many similarities and parallels between the two movies, Uzumasa Limelight is still its own film and offers an equally satisfying viewing experience.  He chose the title Uzumasa Limelight because Uzumasa is a suburb of Kyoto that is a bit like Japan's Hollywood and many wonderful old samurai epics were filmed there...and I have seen and adored hundreds of these films.  Because of this, I would love to one day visit Uzumasa...and am very jealous of my daughter because she spent time at the studio a few months ago...but that's another story.


Seiichi Kamiyama (wonderfully played by SeizĂ´ Fukumoto) is an artist, of sorts.  He's created a real niche for himself in Japanese films and televisions.  But he's not a star...in fact he's a guy many might never even notice.  He plays villains in Japanese samurai productions and has had a steady job playing these sorts of parts for a television show for decades...sort of a sword and samurai version of Gunsmoke.  However, the series is being canceled and the directors and producers want new blood for their projects...and a 70 year-old actor who specializes in dying dramatically and artistically on camera just doesn't seem to be needed any more.

Fortunately for Seiichi, he is able to find a sense of purpose when he meets a young actress.  She is going to be an extra in a new type of samurai television show but she has no idea how to make her scenes look realistic.  Seiichi is a very kind man and offers to coach her and eventually her skills are noticed.  In fact, she is able to quickly move from a stunt double to a star...thanks to Seiichi's coaching.  Fortunately, she is the grateful sort and insists that Seiichi come out of retirement for one final last hurrah.



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