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"Samurai Rebellion" ("Jôi-uchi: Hairyô tsuma shimatsu") offers the most familiar face in samurai films, Toshirô Mifune, as a grandfather who is pushed to act against the wishes of his lord all in the name of love. That should be enough to get you interested in Masaki Kobayashi's 1967 film, which is set in 1725 during a peaceful period for the Tokugawa Shogunate. The daimyo Lord Masakata Matsudaira (Tatsuo Matsumura) has ordered his concubine, the Lady Ichi (Yôko Tsukasa), exiled from his castle. Having just born Matsudaira a son, the Lady Ichi has slapped her lord around when she returned from a spa and found another woman in her place. The mother of one of the lord's sons cannot be disposed of, so Matsudaira's superintendent arranged for her to be married to Yogoro Sasahara (Go Katô), the eldest son of the loyal Isaburo Sasahara (Mifune).
Isaburo's shrewish wife, Suga (Michiko Otsuka), complains that the family can not be dishonored by taking the shamed woman into their house and the henpecked Isaburo tried to decline. However, this proves impossible and Yogoro and Ichi are married. Although the marriage is arranged, the two fall in love, and have a daughter, Tomi. Content that his son has a happy marriage, when he has never seen a shred of love in his own, Isaburo retires and makes Yogoro head of the Sasahara clan. The old man seems content to play with his granddaughter. But then Matsudaira's oldest son dies, making Ichi's son the heir, and he demands she return to the castle. Yogoro refuses to let his wife go and his father backs him in his decision, while the rest of the family insists Ichi be sent packing. This sets up a deadly chess game between the two clans.
It is Matsudaira who makes the big mistakes, having Ichi kidnapped instead of ordering his vassal to have her returned. Now it is Yogoro who is in the right in the eyes of the Shogunate, and Matsudaira must do anything he can to save face. This sets up the fatal confrontation when the superintendent shows up with the Lady Ichi and a whole lot of samurai to try and force the desired resolution. It takes three quarters of this movie before Isaburo finally draws his sword, but then we are in for some serious swordplay by Mifune, which leads to a fateful duel with his friend, the honorable samurai Tatewaki Asano (Tatsuya Nakadai), that underscores that honor under obligation to obedience rather than truth is questionable.
Some might think it takes too long to get to the action in "Samurai Rebellion," but I should point out the literal translation of the title is "Receive the Wife." The acceptance of Ichi by her husband and father-in-law, and her decision to forget about her son to become a true member of her name family, constitute the drama that sets up the action. The Ichi and Yogoro fall in love is what moves Isaburo to take his stand and defy both his wife and his lord, with his righteous anger supported by the best sword arm in the province for the first time in his life Isaburo feels truly alive.
Shinobu Hashimoto's script, based on a novel by Yasuhiko Takiguchi, builds the tension slowly, and while the pace may be unacceptable to some devotes of samurai films it is totally appropriate to this story. Ultimately this is a character drama and what matters is how the three main characters come to the point where they choose their fates, refusing to be shackled any longer by their obligations to their liege lord. The point of "Samurai Rebellion" has been made before the first sword is drawn and what happens after that point is just playing out the inevitable tragedy. The film also offers Kazuo Yamada's beautiful black & white cinematography along with the elegant ballet of swordplay both in the Sasahara courtyard and in front of the gate on the road to Edo.
"Samurai Rebellion" is part of the recently released "Rebel Samurai: Sixties Swordplay Classics" collector's set put out by the Criterion Collection. This set also includes Hideo Gosha's "Sword of the Beast," Masahiro Shinoda's "Samurai Spy," and Kihachi Okamoto's Italian western-influenced "Kill!" The films are also available separately. As near as I can tell "Samurai Rebellion" has been more available of these "chambara" films in the past, so it is nice that the others are getting the chance for samurai fans to check out. Unfortunately the special features on these discs are pretty sparse: all you get here is the trailer and a brief interview with director Masaki Kobayashi. This is rather surprising because you would think there would be volunteers lining up to do a Criterion Collection caliber commentary track.
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on 16 July 2003
This movie got International Film Critics Award in Venice and deserved it.It gives a good example of a combination of actions and a thought-provoking screenplay.The story starts in the late medieval Japan when big battles are over and a samurai who wants to make a family fortune has to keep his lord's favour and serve the lord's caprice.Where's the line between loyalty and human dignity?Isaburo,a master of the sword and a henpecked husband(played brilliantly by the aging Toshiro Mifune,a new peak in his career)risks everything in order to see his son love-match because he never had it.The emotional line is very strong thoughout the movie and makes it better and better when the characters have to face a criticak situation.Love,hate humiliation,pride and self-sacrifice make this movie enjoyable.All the characzers are portrayed carefully in the elaborated plot that requires full attention of the audience to the details in the story.Don't worry,this movie isn't just for highbrows,but you must listen not to skip over important words and gestures.It isn't an action film,the plot is a slow but strong river that carries you untill the bloody and bitter climax where good looses to evil but the spectator doesn't,because he had a good fun.So,sit down,relax and enjoy Masaki Kobayashi's masterwork.I did it many times since I bought "Samurai Rebellion".
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on 5 September 2006
While modest in style, the subject becomes heroic and tragic, with excellent performances from the main characters. There is a gripping portrayal of feudal life and family pressures, and deceitful behaviour that backfires. Great stuff!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 May 2013
Five years after his devastatingly splendid "Harakiri" Masaki Kobayashi turned another cruel and beautiful samurai tragedy. "Samurai rebellion" is a very powerful film, which I watched already three times in my life and I always discovered some new treasures in it. Below some more impressions, with limited SPOILERS.

Somewhere in XVIII century, in the domain of Aisu, lives a samurai named Isaburo Sasahara (Toskiro Mifune), a renowned swordsman and a loyal retainer of the local daimyo. Although not rich and even if his marriage was a long and painful failure, Isaburo considers himself quite happy, proud as he is of his two sons and enjoying the friendship of another local samurai, Tatewaki Asano (Tatsuya Nakadai). But then one day the steward of the daimyo gives Isaburo a very special order, concerning a disgraced concubine. Lady Ichi was for a time daimyo's favorite and even gave him a son, but after showing jalousy she was chased away - now Isaburo's older son, Yogoro, is to marry her and take care also of her child... And then the film really begins.

"Samurai rebellion" is a great film, showing a great tragedy caused by senseless injustice. It is as heartbreaking as "Romeo and Juliette" and only marginally less tragic than "Harakiri" (so if you feel a little down, postpone the watching of this film). It also allows two of greatest Japanese actors ever, Toshiro Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai, to appear on the screen side by side - and this is definitely something you do not see everyday! At 128 minutes it is a long film, but you will not feel time passing. There are some good swordfights towards the end, but it is absolutely not the most essential thing.

In fact, exactly as "Harakiri", this film is first and above all about love. Love between a husband and a wife and their love for their child but also the love of a man for his son, grandson and daughter in law - a feeling especially strong because this particular man never knew love in his marriage... And as in "Harakiri" love-fueled rage of a man who has nothing more to lose is a terrible thing to contemplate...

This is an exceptional film, made by a great director, with excellent actors. To buy, watch, keep and transmit to children. It will break your heart in one million pieces but you will never regret that you watched it.
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on 7 October 2011
I saw this film more then 30 years ago and it made a wonderful impression on me at that time because of its superb qualities: the almost classic-Shakespearian screen-play, director's 'tempos', lighting/cameraman work, fine actors.
Now, after all those should-be-discounted "globalised" productions, it now appears to be a truly great film
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on 19 April 2014
this is the best film kurosawa did not make,but should have. great plot and characters. masaki kobayashi,s films are next on my wish list.
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Don't come to Samurai Rebellion expecting a strutting, slashing, melodramatic sword flick. Joichi is a movie that deals with major issues -- love, honor, duty, injustice and, above all, self-respect -- and does so in such a sad and noble way that the inevitability of the outcome approaches tragedy. Note that elements of the plot are discussed.

We're in the middle of the long Tokugawa Shogunate, 1725. There has been peace for years and while the samurai code of obligation and duty is as rigid as ever, there are no wars to fight. When a local daimyo casts aside a concubine, the mother of his youngest son, he sends her to a retainer, Isaburo Sasahara (Toshiro Mifune) with the order that she marry Sasahara's oldest son, Yogoro (Go Kato). Isaburo is probably the best swordsmen in the district, but he is a minor functionary and has been married 20 years to a woman who scorns him. He accepts his fate with his wife, a termagant, and simply tries to do a good job at the lower level assignment he has. The order by their lord divides the family, but finally Yogoro agrees to marry the woman, Ichi (Yoko Tsukasa). The two develop a deep love for each other. They have a daughter, Tomi. Then three years after the daimyo sent her to the Sasahara family, he orders her return. His eldest son has died and it would be a disgrace to have the mother of the new heir married to a retainer. By now Sasahara has resigned as head of his family and turned responsibility over to Yogoro, placing Ichi, whom he has come to love as a father, over his domineering wife. Yogoro plans to refuse the order and Ichi is determined to stay as his wife. But great pressure is brought to bear on both of them as well as on Sasahara. Sasahara says the decision must be Yogoro's...but he makes clear what his feelings are. Duty and obligation are placed on Yogoro and Ichi by members of the family and by the officials of the daimyo. Yogoro wavers for a moment. Sasahara has had enough. "My father-in-law was impressed with my swordsmanship," he tells the couple. "As head of the Sasahara clan, he asked me to marry into the family. But otherwise I have no talents. In other words, I am a worthless man. So in order to prove myself for these past 20 years I have fought to preserve our good name and social standing. So why am I so obstinate now? The cruel injustice involved, for one thing. But your beautiful love for each other has touched me most of all. There's never been a shred of love in my married life! Promise me, Yogoro, that you'll never let Ichi go!" Turning to Ichi, he says, "No matter what happens, never leave him! Promise me!"

The three will not agree to the return of Ichi. The daimyo will not change his cruel order. Up to now the movie has been spent exploring the life of Isaburo Sasahara, his home, his family, his relationships with his superiors, all of whom expect obedience. Family councils are held. The daimyo's minions plot ways to force the return of Ichi. Threats are made. Seppuku is ordered. At one point Ichi is tricked into the daimyo's castle. Sasahara and Yogoro prepare to defend their home. He virtually shouts out to his daimyo's stewart, who has come to manipulate an agreement from him, "And tell everyone this for me! I, Isaburo Sasahara, in all my life have never felt more alive than I do now.!" Sasahara knows full well what the outcome of his defiance will most likely be. So do Yogoro and Ichi. The injustice of it, and their love, make them as determined as Sasahara. A confrontation is inevitable and occurs in a spasm of violence. Sasahara finally takes his baby granddaughter and walks toward Edo, carrying her in his arms. He will plead his case before the Shogun. He makes it as far as the frontier gate of the daimyo's lands. There is no happy ending. We are left only with Sasahara's hope for his granddaughter and with the satisfaction of seeing a man who found self-respect. I'm not sure if this is enough to make a tragedy, but it comes close. Isaburo Sasahara found nobility along with self-respect.

The black and white film is beautifully photographed. Kobayashi takes his time letting us see Sasahara's life and how he and his family live. He helps us understand the unyielding social order of Sasahara's world. He builds an understanding of the kind of man Sasahara is and became. We can understand how, seeing his son's love for Ichi and how it is returned, he will not see his son's life turn into his life. All the obligations to a corrupt, self-indulgent and cruel lord become meaningless as he sees the futility of what his life turned out to be. This is a fine movie with major themes. It would not be as powerful as it is without superlative performances by the thee main actors, particularly Toshiro Mifune. He moves believably and powerfully from a cautious man who is emotionally deadened into a man who has been changed by the love he sees between his son and Ichi, and then outraged by the injustice done to them.

The Criterion DVD presentation looks very good. The film is part of Criterion's Rebel Samurai four-film package. It can be bought separately. There is an excerpt from a filmed interview with the director and a Donald Richie essay in an enclosed brochure.
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on 17 March 2015
What a storyline,elegant and pure mastery.
The cast and director have given the viewer a journey to remember
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on 2 May 2016
watched it for toshiro mifune who is needless to say magnificent -- other wise film a bit flat
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on 18 January 2016
Very pleased with this item. Bought as a gift and thoroughly enjoyed.
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