among the very best of japanese films of any genre. not for everyone, due to its combination of grim and at times unrelenting violence and yet a rather contemplative, slow pace. a very odd combination that highlights the irrationality of the samurai ethos as well as a number of classic modernist film conventions, especially the arresting close-ups and the juxtapositions between the lyrical and the harsh. the striking and extraordinarily ugly frozen last frame is remarkable, and the affectless manner of the protagonist is particularly chilling. the cinematography is top-flight and the composition of each frame is as taut as any film i can recall----so many of the individual frames would be beautiful images if printed as stills. a must -see which bears intense scrutiny over multiple viewings
A lot of people are confused about the ending...go figure, because it was intended to be the first part of a trilogy based on one of the most popular and not to mention longest novels ever written in Japan, so the ending it quite abrupt. If you're looking for fast flying kung-fu type action, this is not the film for you. If you're looking for a great story and some intense samurai dueling, definitely rent this movie.
I love old samurai movies. This tale shot in black and white is a somewhat confusing tale (too many characters after each other) focused on the life of a bad man. I liked the movie b/c they develop the main character well enough that you root for the bad guy at times. There were small nuasances (sp?) in this movie that bothered me. One example is people in the dead of winter barefoot in ponds outside! Just a little cold maybe? Not for the actors apparently. Loved the ending but like I said, I had trouble following all the storylines the first time I watched it.