Lord Asano resists a bribery attempt by a member of the Shogun's court. His honesty, however, is useless against the corruption of the administration, and he is forced to commit harakiri. His samurai retinue are dispersed as master-less ronin. The leader of the samurai, Oichi, plots with a loyal band of ronin to seek revenge for their master's dishonour.
Mizoguchi's rendition of the classic folk legend is probably the most nuanced and complex both in execution and narrative, his craft not only excels in its formal audacity but also works as one of the finest examples of traditional Japanese storytelling. It should be seen paying utmost attention to every detail as it may inadvertently challenge the viewer.
This film is absolutely incredible. Perhaps the best Japanese film I've ever seen. It is truly a contemplation about art and aesthetic conventions, with a Hamlet-like story and choreographed to utter perfection. I'm entirely bewildered as to how this was accomplished. Utterly amazing.
Sitting here stunned after four hours and really just wanting the film to go on even more. The film didn't even FEEL like four hours and it was brilliant how Mizoguchi didn't show the battle scene. I also really really just REALLY loved the camera set-up with certain scenes and just letting it linger for a few minutes before letting it actually "begin".
Commissioned by the military as a warlike film, the first part was released six days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. However, Mizoguchi avoids breast-beating and confrontation; instead he employs beautiful long takes and gliding crane shots to create a sense of unity between the various characters. The film belies its heavy themes and great length because of its magnificent elegance. One of the greatest of films.