(1968) dir. Kihachi Okamoto
My second film of the year was also my second recommended Samurai film from my friend who is a samurai film aficianado. Also directed by Kihachi Okamoto, whose The Sword of Doom (1966), I had watched a couple of days prior, it’s a wholly different samurai film.
Largely comedic, Kill!, as I understand it, was meant to be somewhat of a parody of the genre. Just now introducing myself to the genre, I can’t say a whole lot with specificity, but some aspects are clear. The film opens with images of moving feet that suddenly freeze-frame, several moving images stop, as the titles roll, and the music sounds more like Ennio Morricone than your typical Japanese instrumentals. There is a strong sense of a nod back toward the Spaghetti Westerns, who took their lead from many of the samurai films from Japan.
The film follows two down-and-outers, Genta, a former samurai who is now a tramp, and Hanji, a former farmer who wants to be a samurai. The cinematography is stunning at times, particularly Okamoto’s use of the misty blowing sand or fog through which characters appear in the broken down village where things converge. The narrative includes a multitude of characters, all with different relationships with their roles as samurai or ronins. They are good and bad, and maybe ugly, and eventually, you grasp the whole gang and understand who the good guys and bad guys are supposed to be. Though, I do have to say that this is what Okamoto plays with to an extent. Locked in a fortress, the seven good guys start turning good or bad under the influence of wine, a woman, and imminent death.
It’s easy to see that some figures are clear archetypes of the genre, but with a limited knowledge, I don’t know what to say. I think I personally preferred Okamoto’s more somber The Sword of Doom, but that’s just me. I am actually quite open to seeing some more. I think I will.