Samurai Spy

A part of this view­ing listCri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion Spine #312: Masahi­ro Shinoda’s Samu­rai Spy.

Hav­ing read Shusaku Endo’s Silence many years ago, the per­se­cu­tion of Catholi­cism dur­ing the Toku­gawa shogu­nate was some­thing that imme­di­ate­ly grabbed me here. It came as only a slight sur­prise to dis­cov­er that Masahi­ro Shin­o­da direct­ed an adap­ta­tion of the book six years after mak­ing Ibun Saru­to­bi Sasuke (this movie). Saru­to­bi Sasuke is an employed samu­rai in a clan who has yet to take sides in a brew­ing con­flict between Toku­gawa and Osa­ka. Addi­tion­al­ly, he has his own ideas in regard to the use­ful­ness of war in the first place. He gets roped in to some espi­onage and intrigue by being a badass do-good­er in the wrong place at the right time.

Lots of peo­ple die. Sasuke gets blamed for mur­ders he doesn’t com­mit, and no one seems to care about the folks he actu­al­ly does kill on his was to safe­ty and a mod­icum of secu­ri­ty. The joke here, if you want to call it that, is that Sasuke doesn’t have a goal apart from safe­ly nav­i­gat­ing the com­pli­cat­ed cur­rents he’s found him­self in. Though he’s not explic­it­ly Chris­t­ian, (nor is he explic­it­ly not Chris­t­ian), the heavy involve­ment of a secre­tive Chris­t­ian group, and it’s unlike­ly con­nec­tion to an apos­ta­sized, lep­rous spy­mas­ter gave this samu­rai film a fla­vor unlike any oth­er I’ve seen.

It’s also beau­ti­ful; shots with max­i­mal depth of field, shift­ing fog and silences, abstract pat­terns of light and shad­ow, and unique­ly appro­pri­ate cam­era shifts all evoke the uncer­tain­ty of things hid­den in plain sight and in shad­ow.

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