in about 100 words or less
Japan 180m, Colour
Director: Akira Kurosawa; Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kenichi Hagiwara, Jinpachi Nezu, Hideji Otaki, Daisuke Ryu, Masayuki Yui, Kaori Momoi, Mitsuko Baisho, Hideo Murota
Kagemusha is an epic historical drama set in late sixteenth century Japan in which an impersonator or “shadow warrior” is used to replace the slain warlord Takeda Shingen – a means to maintain stability for a once powerful clan which otherwise would be vulnerable to attack by its enemies. The Kagemusha, once a lowly thief, is transformed into a caring and compassionate servant who learns the value of life as he witnesses others who give theirs to protect his, and the last wishes of their fallen master. As he did with Dodes’ka-Den (1970), Kurosawa the painter, adeptly applied vivid colors to the film through costuming, set design, and in creating surreal backdrops and settings in the battle and dream sequences. At three hours in length, Kagemusha is deliberately paced and beautifully photographed, giving time to not only enjoy the beauty of the images, but to give weight to “the mountain” – one of the four powers of the clan which served as both title and tactic in Shingen’s rule (Klaus Ming January 2011).