Samurai Films and the Films You Definitely Need to Follow

The genre of the samurai film allows observing an evolution of heroic values ​​since the first appearances of the samurai in the cinema until the 1960s. The representation by the Japanese cinema of this feudal warrior underwent a parallel evolution to the transformations of the Japanese society which, in just over a century, went from feudalism to industrial power after a military defeat followed by American occupation. The samurai films produced during the first decade of the Japanese economic miracle also show heroes who are strangely similar to the Hollywood cowboy. Beyond the influence of a hegemonic culture on a national cinema, the case of this cinematographic genre allows to historicize the evolution of moral values ​​and concepts of a changing society. There are movies to watch on this matter now.

An examination of the narrative that form the flagship titles that have marked the genre reveals that the figure of the samurai changes from the status of hero who respects feudal values ​​to that of non-conformist figure to the independent spirit as promoted by Hollywood cinema. Originally, the samurai were for seven centuries a caste of soldiers in the service of feudal lords. In 1853, at the time of the opening of Japan to the West, the Emperor Meiji abolished this caste which was distinguished from the class of traders or peasants.

These warriors, however, will continue to exert a fascination in the collective imagination especially by their presence in Japanese culture. However, with the US occupation following the Second World War, filmmakers began to portray these warriors with a spirit of rebellion that echoed the concerns of the new post-war society, a society seeking to break with tradition feudal.

The samurai at the beginning of the cinema

The first film strips produced in Japan were Kabuki performance recordings, a theater that was born in the seventeenth century and is now a traditional form of theater in this country. The cinema in Japan remained essentially theater filmed until the 1920s [1] . Thus, because of this strong theatrical heritage, the first samurai in the cinema were modeled on the performance of the Kabuki theater, namely virtuous warriors.

More generally, historical films took up the characteristics of Kabuki by presenting two types of male heroes: tateyaku and nimaine . The tateyaku is strong, noble and therefore finds an exemplary incarnation in the samurai loyal to his lord. By Confucianism, romantic love is foreign to tateyaku, which is more attached to duty in feudal traditions. Nimaine is the man susceptible to love; it comes from the class of traders, who are neither strong nor smart like the men of the samurai class.

The case of the 47 loyal ronin

In Japanese culture there is a history that occupies an even more important place than, for example, Joan of Arc in France. The true story of the 47 loyal rônin has been the subject of countless pieces of Kabuki since 1748. From the time of its embryonic state of Film Theater, Japanese cinema has also approached this story. Then, after having developed into an art in itself, it continued with many adaptations, to the point where, in 2000, the researcher Isolde Standish recorded 91 films devoted to the 47 loyal Ronins produced between 1908 and 1994.

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