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Exceptional Classic - But Underserved by the Translation
on March 19, 2006
BY ALL MEANS, RENT THIS FILM! But, for the truly discriminating viewer of jidaigeki*, might I suggest that viewers hold out for a better DVD version to purchase -- one with superior English translation compared to this DVD by Media-Blasters/Tokyo Shock. Otherwise, the movie itself well merits five stars.
"Goyokin" is a subtle, utterly compelling work. Superb direction (action sequences and mise-en-scène composition), acting (including the great Tatsuya Nakadai), writing, and cinematography do ample justice to this deceptively straightforward, yet culturally and thematically complex, drama.
Devotees of this remarkable yet undeservedly obscure film have waited decades for a quality print, and for years a DVD version. What a disappointment, then, this version -- the only saving grace of which IS the print, which thankfully retains the film's impressive cinematography.
Julia Rose's translation, though technically serviceable, is at times wincingly glib for such a mature, understated work as "Goyokin." (Accountability should also rest with the DVD's translation manager Anna Yamamoto.)
The translation often fails to grasp the suggestive nuances and complexities of the Japanese people, their language, history, and culture. This film demands not only a command of all these elements, but a mastery of English as well, in order to convey traditional Japanese refinement to an English-speaking audience. That is to say, a depth of sophistication worthy of the film's artistry.
Fine and noteworthy motion pictures merit long life in a loyal and dedicated audience, who deserve to see them exactly as their creators envisioned in the final cut. In this case, I hope fans of "Goyokin" will one day be rewarded with an alternative DVD version, one with a finesse of translation equal to the level of this exceptional classic.
Despite this criticism -- and as other fans have already commented here -- I'm sincerely grateful that this treasure of a movie can now be seen by a wider viewing public. I'd like to think Ms. Rose gave it her best shot, but Gosha's "Goyokin" deserves better.
* Period films that typically, but not exclusively, focus on the Edo period of Japanese history, from 1603 to 1868.