Samurai Rebellion (Japanese, 1967)
Don't let the misleading title and visual mislead you, I seriously thought Samurai Rebellion was a hardcore, action-packed samurai film. But no, 'Samurai Rebellion' is an amazing love story and a gripping story of a father and son relationship. Now, if you're wondering if there are fight scenes—well, there is of course your fair share bloodshed and swordplay, what would you expect!? But if you're expecting graphic violence and sword fight galore like most samurai movies, you are bound to be disappointed, because Samurai Rebellion is so much more to offer than that.
This samurai drama by Kobayashi Masaki (director of another film masterpiece, Harakiri) is a heart wrenching tale about defiance, sense of duty, family, corruption, love, and hope. Few filmmakers like Masaki who can magically transform a simple tale of feudal injustice into such a wonderful historical drama.
This movie might feel a bit slow in the beginning, but as the story develops, every part gets more and more intense, leaving you helplessly captivated. What makes Samurai Rebellion even more outstanding is how cinematography, choreography, and music are ingeniously incorporated to highlight its themes. It's like each frame of this movie has some kind of symbolic meaning—the hum of the wind, the characters' speech delivery, etc. This review is not enough to give justice to this critically-acclaimed movie.
Set in 18th century Japan, during the peaceful mid years of Tokugawa Shogunate's sovereignty, Samurai Rebellion stars Toshiro Mifune as Isaburo Sasahara, an aging yet skilled swordsman living a simple life.
Meanwhile, the Lord Matsudaira of his province's concubine, Ichi, is exiled for displeasing the ruler out of jealousy, despite bearing and being the mother of his heir. Lord Matsudaira orders that Isaburo's son, Yogoro, is to marry and take in his disgraced concubine. Miserable in his own married life, Isaburo halfheartedly follows the order to perform the duty as requested by the clan. The father and son accept the 'disgraced' woman into their home.
However, to their surprise, Ichi is an exceptional woman and the young couple falls deeply in love and bears a daughter, named Tomi. Everything is perfect for two years, until Lord Matsudaira's elder son dies, and he demands the return of Ichi to the castle to take care of their son and heir.
Isaburo, seeing genuine love in the couple, disobeys the lord; Yogoro and Ichi support him. The clan orders their hara-kiri (suicide), and then sends soldiers to kill them.
You'll have to see what happens…