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Unforgiven

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    Ugetsu

    I don’t know how wide this film will be released, but there is a Japanese-Korean remake of Clint Eastwoods Unforgiven reviewed in the Guardian. The reviewer makes the nice point that this represents a lovely symmetry with Yojimbo and Fistful of Dollars – Eastwood making his name in a remake of a Japanese film, and now a Japanese film is remaking Eastwoods finest work.

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    Vili Maunula

    This seems to have received quite some attention in Japan while it was filming, as I remember it crowding my news feed for weeks on end a year or so ago.

    It is interesting to see these non-American remakes being made that borrow from Hollywood, rather than the other way around. I’d be curious to see this one, although I’m not sure if I’ve seen the original yet!

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    Ugetsu

    I went to see this last night – its a very good film, beautifully shot up in Hokkaido. It is quite odd in some respects though in that it holds to Eastwoods original surprisingly and maybe unnecessarily closely. But the choice of the 19th Century ‘wild west’ of Hokkaido as an equivalent for the original wild west is really good and quite convincing.

    In this version, Clint Eastwoods character is a ronin refugee from the final defeat of the Shoguns forces at the start of the Meiji era, living in a remote area with native Ainu people with his two children. The Gene Hackman character is a government officer, tasked with keeping control of all the wild characters drawn by the frontier as Hokkaido opened up to coal mining and farming. The basis of the story – a group of prostitutes raise money as a bounty to anyone who will kill two men who cut up one of the women, drawing all sorts of desperadoes to the town – will be familiar of course to anyone who’s seen the 1992 original.

    There is though a real Kurosawa touch – in the original, there is a character of a young man who dreams of being a gunman but who falls to pieces at the reality of actually killing. He is replaced by a character (I can’t find the name of the actor, even imdb is not helpful) who is a straight up copy of Kikuchiyu from Seven Samurai. He even gives a similar speech to the ‘were you born as a farmer’ scene. The actor clearly studied all Mifune’s movements and ticks (and does a pretty good job of it), which I suppose is fair enough as Eastwood always says he did the same thing in his ‘Man with no Name’ movies.

    One other noteworthy part of the film. To my knowledge, this is the first Japanese film I’ve seen which is quite unflinching in depicting the destruction of the Ainu people as a form of genocide, not much different from the destruction of Native American society. Although it does depict them somewhat as naif’s. I would think this may be because the director of the film is a Japanese born ethnic Korean.

    The film was shown here in Dublin as a one-off (the annual Japanese film festival is on at the moment), so I don’t know how widely it will be shown. But I’d certainly recommend seeing it on the big screen if possible as the cinematography is as wonderful as the landscapes. The film does drag a little in the middle and maybe relies a little too much on the charisma of the very good cast – but it is certainly entertaining and intelligently made and more than just a curiosity.

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    Vili Maunula

    Thanks for the review, Ugetsu! Definitely makes me interested to see it.

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