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Customer Review

on April 14, 2001
William Goldman, and American screenwriter, admonished aspiring screenwriters to begin scenes as close to end as possible. This is the sort of pacing that audiences--American audiences, at least--are accustomed to. Akira Kurosawa's "Kagemusha" is quite a different sort of movie than would ever be produced by the American or even the European mainstream movie industry.. Its scenes are long and talky, with periods of silence, and still cameras. The scenery, make-up, and mannerisms of the actors are exaggerated and often melodramatic, like you would find in formal Japanese cinema. Anyone seeing this movie expecting a medieval action flick along the lines of, say, "Exalibur," is very likely to be disappointed.
Which would be a shame. This is a magnificent movie. The photography and set design alone are breathtaking. This is more a historical piece than a character study--the characters remain, for the most part, two-dimensional. The focus remains tightly on the strategies and deceptions involved in keeping together the Shingen Takeda clan when their leader has died.
Scenes are often long and patiently filmed. In one quietly dramatic scene, we see two lines of cavalry come galloping over an incline from a great distance. The thunder of the racing horses builds, and the lines converge before us. In this single shot, not much else happens, but the composition and sound create a powerful effect. This movie is filled with subtle, magnificent moments like this.
The battle scenes--well, no one can beat Kurosawa here. The final scene depicts devestation and defeat with surprisingly little gore, yet is no less powerful (and, arguably, more) than, say, the graphically violent scenes in "Saving Private Ryan."
This is a must-see for any movie buff.
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