Saturday, May 28, 2011


Directed by: Kazuaki Kiriya
Written by: Kazuaki Kiriya; Tetsurô Takita
Starring: Yosuke Eguchi; Takao Osawa; Ryoko Hirosue
Cinematography: Kazuaki Kiriya
Release date(s) May 1, 2009 (Japan)
Running time: 128 minutes
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Budget $9 million

Whether you like it or not, feature films in 3D format is catching on big time. Even a prestigious event like the Cannes Film Festival, this year, included a 3D film in its main competition — Takashi Miike’s Hara-Kiri.

As a visual medium, however, 3D has its limitations; it doesn’t lend itself to all kinds of films. There are film you want to observe from a distance, not enter there and be part of the scene. 3D isn’t good for such films. In short, 3D doesn’t do justice to Miike’s work. His films are not about visual flair, but something else. And, you can handle blood and gore on screen only to a certain extent.

But there are films for which 3D would be an ideal add-on to enhance the look. The 2009 Japanese film Goemon is one such film.

The first thing you notice about this historical fantasy is the look — sharp, detailed, filled with colour, like an animation film (like the look of Ghost in the Shell: Innocence). Actually, the entire film has this anime look, including the action set-pieces (they involves all those mythical shinobi ninjas; the first action sequence shows two of them leaping among the trees like birds of prey, which looks highly impossible, highly kinetic and wondrous to behold.).

Make no mistakes, the film tells a story, about Ishikawa Goemon, a kind of Japanese Robin Hood, a semi-mythical historical figure and includes quasi-historical characters like Hatori Hanzo (Not the one from Kill Bill Vol 1). There are romances, palace intrigues, and lust for power. But, director Kazuaki Kiriya doesn’t want to just tell a story; he wants us to see it; it’s a visual feast. I wish I could see the film in theatre, perhaps in 3D; it would have been an experience.

Another thing that stands out in the film is the costume design. It is ostensibly a period film, and the costume designers have fun creating outlandish and outrageous dresses for the characters. None of them wear the kimono as the traditional Japanese dress, but something like a post-modern kitsch version of it, more colourful and gaudy. Yimou Zhang did a similar thing for the 2006 Chinese film Curse of the Golden Flowers, accentuating the colour yellow. However, unlike that film where the actors looked ill at ease in those heavy costumes, in Goemon, the characters carry their clothes quite effortlessly.

Goemon may not be a ‘great film’, but I would recommend it to anyone who believes in the power of cinema as a visual art. Goemon is a visual art.

Goemon in Wikipedia.

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