Wednesday, January 01, 2014

47 RONIN -- (a very sad 5)

Are you familiar with pollarding?   It's an ugly way to trim trees, usually mulberry or willow trees.  Basically, they cut all the limbs off and when spring comes the tree has to sprout lots of little weak branches in order to survive.  It keeps the tree in a permanent juvenile state and over time the tree can become hollow.  One sees this done mostly to trees in cheaper apartment complexes and it's horrible.  I always wish they would put the tree out of it's misery and chop it down altogether rather than continuing to keep it in such a weird state.   All the new little branches are weak when they sprout out of the stumpy ends of the large limbs.   The break away easily because they really aren't a part of the larger tree but just a desperate means of survival.  They are decorative and essential but not really a part of the larger plan of the tree.

This brings me to 47 RONIN.


47 RONIN was born to be an Akira Kurosawa film. 

This shot is pure Kurosawa.

It wanted to be visually breathtaking in it's accuracy and depth and performed in the Japanese language.  It is based on the ULTRA tradtional story from Japan, a story which is so ingrained into national culture that performances of it has it's own word.  47 RONIN wanted to take the Robin Hood story of Japan and turn it into something breathless and moving and amazing and totally Japanese.

Then, the studio did this

because this movie was made by a U.S. company.  I'm pretty sure the logic was "If Japanese movies were capable of making billions of dollars, they would be Hollywood and not us."  (Apparently manga doesn't count. Ever.)   So, all of the major branches 47 RONIN was born to have were cut off and a lot of tiny weak branches were forced to grow so this movie could survive.  The witch lady and the demon priests and Keanu Reeves were not bad branches.

"Are you sure?  Because even I am wondering if I'm a bad idea..."
Everyone did their best.  But, they were simply minor branches which were expected to bear the weight of the movie instead of being the decorative and supporting elements they are.

Keep in mind that a gargantuan amount of money was spent on this film.
This is what a LOT of money looks like.
The clothing, the sets, the camera work, the actors, the CHERRY BLOSSOM TREES... everything is as perfect as it could possibly be.  (Well, I do have some serious questions about the necklines of Mika, the lead female character, but I can't technically complain about her costumes 'till I do more research.)

I didn't even know kimono could HAVE cowl collars.
However, no matter how glorious thing were in detail, the heart and strength of this movie is gone.  It's hollow and sad.

The studio knows it, too.   The marketing is silly

"I am in this movie for exactly 45 seconds and I got my own movie poster."
and they play up all sorts of weird elements rather than talk about the actual story.

"Are you REALLY sure I should be in this movie?  It seems strange..."
However, they already had done glorious things like this
Pictured: more money
so it was far too late to do this.

I'm glad I saw it.   It was beautiful.  But, it was also really sad and not just because everyone dies in the end.