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Chushingura Gaiden Yotsuya Kaidan

Crest of Betrayal

Japan 1994
produced by
Shochiku
directed by Kinji Fukasaku
starring Koichi Sato, Saki Takaoka, Keiko Oginome, Tsunehiko Watase, Eriko Watanabe, Renji Ishibashi, Keizo Kanie, Masahiko Tsugawa, Takahiro Tamura, Shohei Hino, Maiko Kikuchi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Yuko Natori, Masaomi Kondo, Naomasa Rokudaira
written by Kinji Fukasaku, Motomu Furuta, music by Kaoru Wada

Chushingura, Ghost Story of Yotsuya

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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All Iemon (Koichi Sato) wanted to be is a musician, just like his father, but financial hardships forced him to become a murderer and a thief, and he had to witness his father's suicide.

Years later: Iemon still tries to make a living as a musician and tries to be a good husband to his wife, former prostitute Oiwa (Saki Takaoka), but somehow he gets sucked into the power struggle taking place in town presently as he was temporarily one of the legendary 47 Ronin, though without any real kind of conviction. Disaster really strikes though when aristocrat Ito (Renji Ishibashi), a former opponent, wants Iemon to marry his daughter Oume (Keiko Oginome), and to this end has Oiwa poisoned. Oiwa's death breaks Iemon's heart, but he still agrees to marry Oume for financial reasons - but in the wedding night, he sees the spirit of Oiwa, goes crazy and murders his newly-wed wife as well as her father and family.

Iemon is now on the run from the law, but once the authorities catch with him, they don't arrest him but persuade him to go and kill Yokokawa (Shohei Hino), a nobleman who plans revolt.

Once facing Yokokawa though, Iemon has to realize that the man won't fight for his life (thus refusing to make his killing an honorable one) but has no desire to be killed - and he almost manages to talk Iemon out of his mission, too - until he mentions the child he concieved with one of the local hookers, with Oiwa ...

The film ends in slaughter: Iemon sees himself fighting Yokokawa's men - and he dies. However, then Oiwa's spirit appears, keeping Iemon in the land between life and death, and she sees that Yokokawa gets his just desserts, before she and Iemon, now reunited forever, leave to God-knows-where ...

 

In his yakuza-epics from the 1970's, director Kinjji Fukasaku has proven himself a master of bringing complex stories to the screen in a comprehensible way. In this film however, a blend of two Japanese folk-legends, the Chushingura (= Legend of the 47 Ronin) with the Ghost Story of Yotsuya, he is far less successful in telling his story in an understandable way to the uninitiated audiences - to be fai thoughr, both the Chushingura and the Ghost Story of Yotsuya are well-known enough in Japan to assume the local audience needs no special introductions to large junks of the story. As a viewer not especially well-versed in Japanese legends, Crest of Betrayal might be a little above one's head concerning its plot. What remains however is a well-crafted, well-played period piece with enough action and tension to keep the viewer interested in the film even if the narrative eludes him - it just could have been so much better if one really knew what's going on ...

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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Out now from
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produced by and starring
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