The Last Samurai, based on a story by John Logan
8 out of 10
Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:
- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEVa4_CsRStSBBDo4uJWT8BSWtTTn0N1E and http://realini.blogspot.ro/
The Last Samurai is a beautiful film.
I loved the panoramic views of the Fuji Mountain, the Japanese architecture covered in snow or the trees in spring.
- It is difficult to find the perfect bud, but it is worth spending your life looking for it
This is from the wisdom of Katsumoto, the samurai- which we learn from the movie that it means to serve- played by Ken Watanabe.
For one of the very attractive aspects of this good work is the incursion, in the second part, into spirituality.
- One image has the nephew of Katsumoto, maybe only eight years old, meditating in the snow…
Even the fights, again, in the same second part, are beautiful, for the choreography of these ancient martial arts is splendid.
Nathan Algren is the hero portrayed by Tom Cruise- a complicated man, with psychological issues dating from the battles against the Native Americans.
We see him at the beginning, drunk and unable to move very well, addressing an audience and telling war stories.
He reminded me of the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, in which the latter does a similar thing.
Only Nathan Algren is disgusted by a lot of what he has experienced in these genocidal battles and says:
- General Custer was not a hero, but a megalomaniac responsible for the death of thousands of people- it is what I remember and not a quote…
In his storytelling, there is the obvious horror, but also some dark humor, like the reference to his potential baldness, when he could have been scalped.
He receives an offer from a Japanese minister to train soldiers in that army, for a good salary and with an arms deal for the United States as a perk.
In 1876, he arrives in Yokohama, in a Japan that wants to modernize, but it is fighting a civil war between those who want to keep traditions and the others that at first appear as modernizers, but are later revealed as profiteers.
One of the main themes of the film is the conflict between traditional values and modern technology and weapons.
One angle would be to contemplate the ridiculous attempt of fighting guns with…swords, even if excellent, samurai ones.
But gradually, together with the hero, we learn to appreciate the beauty, the ethics of the traditions that are thousands of years old.
Cynic as I often am, when contemplating the magnificent Mount Fuji, I could not help think of the other Japan.
For we have, like with every large community or population on the globe, two sides to these people, one fabulous and the other dark.
Apart from the ruthlessness in the World War II, which is bizarrely denied by some fundamentalist and far right activists, there is the phenomena filmed in The Cove, where whole coastal communities justify killing hundreds of dolphins.
But the good people have a majority and a strong tradition in these samurai, ready to give their life for the emperor.
Nathan Algren is the man who experiences a Transformation, due to his staying with the rebels for the winter.
Starting as enemies, Katsumoto and the American captain become not just friends, but allies fighting for the same cause.
- This is also a story of Redemption
Because I see Nathan Algren as Redeemed, not because he embraces the cause of the sword against the cannon, but because he can see beauty again, finds some closure for the dreadful acts he had committed in the past, learns about Savoring the Moment and Carpe Diem in front of the blooming trees and the meditating Zen masters…
At least this is how I see it, forgetting the somewhat preposterous scenes of fights involving arrows against bullets, in a repetition in the Land of The Rising sun of the battles against the exterminated Native Americans