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.

2 thoughts on “Samurai Spy

  1. I had no idea this ex­isted. I’ve loved Endo since I stum­bled across him in high school. 

    Thank you.

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