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RISE OF THE SWORD-SAINT,
This review is from: Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island - Criterion Collection (DVD)
This film marks the glorious conclusion to the Samurai Trilogy and the ascent of Musashi Miyamoto to spiritual perfection, Musashi Kensei (The Sword-Saint). TOSHIRO MIFUNE, one of the world's greatest actors, delivers a memorable performance as the master at the peak of his enlightenment.
Several years have goneby and Musashi Miyamoto has emerged invincible in over SIXTY duels. Interestingly enough, one sees no pride or ambition in Musashi's manner. He turns down job offers from important lords, including the Shogun's martial arts teacher. In the meantime, Kojiro Sasaki (Koji Tsuruta) regrets the little recognition he has so far received, and seeks to duel Musashi and attain immortal fame.
Otsu (the beautiful Kaoru Yachigusa), the quintessence of loyalty, has fervently sought to see Musashi once again, having parted unwillingly in Part II. In like manner, Akemi (charming Mariko Okada) maintains hope of seeing Musashi, having through a tragic turn of events wound up as a courtesan in a geisha house. Yet both women defy their seeming fates and separately seek Musashi, a testament to the power of love. Musashi himself has not forgotten his love for Otsu, expressed in his Kwannon statuettes made in her likeness. In a poignant paradox, Musashi escapes fame and the follies of this world as a farmer, having once been in that position and dreaming of fame.
In the meantime, Kojiro's skill is finally recognized and he comes under the employ of the Shogun.
The romance between Musashi and the two women is tragically resolved, and a battle between Musashi and a group of bandits proves very costly. Yet Kensei maintains his poise and graciously accepts Kojiro's challenge to a DUEL AT GANTRYU ISLAND. The perfection of Musashi's technique evident in the fact that he carves an oar into a sword on the trip to the island, using wood against the steel of the deadly Swallow Cut. ONE OF THE MOST MOMENTOUS SCENES IN JAPANESE MOTION PICTURE HISTORY.
Hiroshi Inagaki once more deliviers a beautifully directed and cinematographed motion picture. The color is surely the finest in the trilogy, in particular the opening sequence with Kojiro amidst the waterfall and rainbow, and the duel at dawn with its stunning red and gold -Atsushi Yasumoto's photography is brilliant.Ikuma Dan's score is less triumphant and more peaceful and contemplative (though no less dramatic). The pacing is more deliberate, but the strong characters and riveting storyline more than compensate.
This duel establishes MUSASHI MIYAMOTO as the Greatest Swordsman in History. After this battle, he no longer uses real swords in combat, only wooden ones. He goes on to write A BOOK OF FIVE RINGS (a must-have), "A guide for men who want to learn strategy," required reading for kendo students and Japanese businessmen to this day. Musashi Miyamoto Kensei represents the ability in all of us to attain perfect understanding.