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Old 11-27-2003, 07:35 AM   #1
tedehara
 
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Question The Last Samurai

Some thoughts about the movie The Last Samurai.

At the end of the Tokugawa era, the various samurai clans could have fought among themselves for dominance. The end result would be a divided island ripe for colonial domination by some western power.

Instead the clans took everything they had and turned it over to the Emperor. These clans created the nation of Japan and started its modernization into the industrial world.

This was not an easy process and there were a few renegade hold-outs. They quickly discovered the difference between traditional clan warfare and modern warfare with artillery and rifles.

I'm sure Tom Cruise will look "dashing" in his recreated samurai armor. (At the time of this writing, the movie has not premiered.) I'm sure his day and a half training in the martial arts will look especially grueling. I'm sure the movie will equal everything a big budget Holllywood picture is known for, including stretching the truth.

If the clans had fought among themselves, today Japan would be another third world country with a history of foreign colonization. With over population and no natural resources the island nation would face a grinding poverty.

Of course, I have my own prejudices. My maternal great-grandfather was a member of the Satsuma clan. After the warrior class was disbanded he became a priest. He became a priest because he could read, something most people couldn't do at that time. Before he died, he was studying an foreign language called English.

Last edited by tedehara : 11-27-2003 at 07:43 AM.

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Old 11-27-2003, 06:45 PM   #2
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Just finished an interesting book called the Yamamoto Dynasty which concentrated on the last four emporers and the power politics than controlled them. A little strident in the end but very well written. Nothing I did't read elsewhere but nicely concentrated.

The Meiji restoration was infact a civil war with the emperor at the climax controlled by the Satsuma and Chosu clans and their allies. It's a mistake to see the event as true patriots rallying around a charismatic emperor (a teenage boy). The Tokugawa control was disinigrating over time and an opprotunity, along with a source of modern weapons, presented itself.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 11-28-2003, 08:48 AM   #3
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In the movie Cruise plays an American Civil War veteran selling guns to the Japanese government. Actually the Japanese government modeled the new army after the Prussians. They were believed to be the best army at the time. They modeled the new navy after the British, for the same reason.

My great-grandmother recalled as a child seeing a Satsuma castle being shelled by a British ship. Satsuma clan had picked a fight with the British navy, so they had a taste of what modern warfare was like.

Tokugawa clan was facing both external and internal pressures. Guns were being smuggled on the island by other clans. Foreign military could land at any time. Their infexibility was the cause of their downfall.

Last edited by tedehara : 11-28-2003 at 09:01 AM.

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Old 11-28-2003, 04:58 PM   #4
Lan Powers
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I realize it is now quite dated to most viewers, but they are currently showing "Shogun" on the movie channel here over the holiday weekend. This is just a novel, but does have a lot of cool historical basis. Elsewhere on this site is a link to the history of William Adams, the man that the novel based itself on. http://hsv.com/writers/jeffog/wa-hist.htm

I had formed the opinion (just from the trailers, mind you) that The Last Samurai was just a loosely based copy.......Still a chance to see good re-creations of late period armor, and such.

I hope it is not too disapointing.

Lan

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Old 11-28-2003, 10:41 PM   #5
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The historical events that set the backdrop for LS are real. The story, main characters, etc. are fictional. So says Tom Cruise in his interview with Larry King.

Bronson

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Old 12-01-2003, 08:23 AM   #6
vanstretch
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Last Samurai

hey all, i just saw the pre-screening of last samurai. i would hope that all aikidoka will see this awesome portrayal and story of those times. very enlightening and many lessons parallel to aikido training. much ken work. see for yourself!!!!
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Old 12-01-2003, 09:38 AM   #7
Don_Modesto
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Re: Last Samurai

Quote:
daniel vanhee (vanstretch) wrote:
i would hope that all aikidoka will see this awesome portrayal and story of those times. very enlightening and many lessons parallel to aikido training. much ken work. see for yourself!!!!
What times?

How accurate?

What lessons?

What parallels?

Don J. Modesto
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Old 12-01-2003, 10:13 AM   #8
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Re: Re: Last Samurai

Quote:
Don J. Modesto (Don_Modesto) wrote:
What times?

How accurate?

What lessons?

What parallels?
Daniel, whatever you do don't answer Don!!! Unless of course you can do it without giving too much of the movie away

Bronson

"A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence."
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Old 12-01-2003, 11:17 AM   #9
tedehara
 
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"Samurai" a good film maybe, but good history unlikely

Kudos to John Lindsey from e-budo.com for this link.

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Old 12-01-2003, 07:17 PM   #10
Don_Modesto
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Quote:
Ted Ehara (tedehara) wrote:
"Samurai" a good film maybe, but good history unlikely

Kudos to John Lindsey from e-budo.com for this link.
Great interview if it's the Conlan one. Karl Friday recommends we look out for a new article of his in Monumenta Nipponica.

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Old 12-01-2003, 11:32 PM   #11
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I saw the sneak preview as well, turned out to be one of my top 5 all-time fav's. That's tough to do, I think, so I was impressed. Helluva story.

VERY interesting link on the Conlan deal above. Is this now a prevalent theory? I tend not to believe things like this (one guy, "Woe is me, nobody likes my ideas"), so I'm curious about the evidence. If true, it certainly would have some kind of impact.

*Phil

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Old 12-03-2003, 02:56 PM   #12
Don_Modesto
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Quote:
Phillip Johnson (PhilJ) wrote:
VERY interesting link on the Conlan deal above. Is this now a prevalent theory? I tend not to believe things like this (one guy, "Woe is me, nobody likes my ideas"), so I'm curious about the evidence. If true, it certainly would have some kind of impact.
Look up Karl Friday, William Bodiford, Cameron Hurst, and Harold Bolitho for scholarly looks at samurai lore. Conlan's ideas are mainstream.

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Old 12-05-2003, 02:22 AM   #13
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What about the ken-work ?

The movie haven't opened in danish movie thaters yet (as far as I know - I'm a bit out of that loop), but I just watched the flash-intro on this site: http://lastsamurai.warnerbros.com/html_index.php, and I must say I'm not really impressed by the sword work done there. Some of the clips in the trailers seem good though.

Any thoughts ?

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Old 12-13-2003, 10:50 PM   #14
Neil Mick
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OK. I just saw it. My 2 cents, FWIW?

Nice acting, wonderful costumes, pretty good fight scene...but in the end, the movie's a pointless morality-tale that stretches various historical perspectives, as was mentioned earlier. I was hoping for a little something more on the "bravery of men over technology" theme than a vague "thumbs-up" for how cool, is war and combat. Why is it that Hollywood has to always glorify war?

The end was silly, gratuitous, and almost dashed what little fun I had, watching some of the bokken-fights...almost. I don't know--put some guys with swords in period armour in a movie, and I'll watch the thing, now matter how silly the plot.
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Old 12-14-2003, 01:54 AM   #15
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OK You have to remember this is fictionalized history with very good spirit. Yes a little "old fashion" kenjutsu, but Most modern ken waza is an evolution of that period not a replica. still a good story and makes one think that maybe some western minds may be able to understand what we aikidoka are centering ourselves around. This is the first time on Screen i have said to my self, "Yes there is the Focus , maybe my fellow human beings can see through my eyes before judging some" {" arcaic system of bushido"}

The best movie Concidering tom cruse and all.

" what could be more necissary?"

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Old 12-14-2003, 04:59 AM   #16
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Quote:
The end was silly, gratuitous, and almost dashed what little fun I had,
My wife an I saw it with another couple yesterday. We all thought the end destroyed whatever merits the movie had.

Regards,

Paul
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Old 12-14-2003, 05:50 PM   #17
Neil Mick
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Quote:
Bill Ross (Williamross77) wrote:
OK You have to remember this is fictionalized history with very good spirit.

This is the first time on Screen i have said to my self, "Yes there is the Focus , maybe my fellow human beings can see through my eyes before judging some" {" arcaic system of bushido"}

The best movie Concidering tom cruse and all.

" what could be more necissary?"
With respect, Bill (after all: if you enjoyed this film--great. One person's food is another's poison), the biggest thing about this film that I found offensive was its racist subtext. Putting an ethnic group on a pedestal is still racist--look at the American Indian being depicted as the "noble savage (I also found it interesting that the movie compares the Indians and the Japanese)." I know I am asking a lot from H'wood, but I think that a film about the pursuit of budo could have been better served by showing the Japanese as possessing human qualities, rather than perfect beings.

(BTW: I actually thought Tom Cruise did a good job acting)
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Old 12-19-2003, 10:22 AM   #18
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I've not seen the film yet but watching the trailer on the Warner bros. web site reminded me of Dances with the Wolves in that the good guy means well but he is on the wrong side at first, but after a while he turns to the good side.

I don't expect a staged version of Hagakure from Holywood anyway, so I am looking forward to seeing some sword work, maybe a little bit of history, and mainly entertainment.
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Old 12-22-2003, 12:19 AM   #19
Jeff Tibbetts
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Neil, since you brought it up... I definately caught some racist undertones. I am getting kind of sick of the "white guy being more 'pure' than the ethnic people he's poses as" theme. I don't care if Tom Cruise is a trained warrior, you're not going to pick up a bokken and be as good as your own teacher in six months. It's a bit offensive that he's one of the only people who "get's it" in the movie, rising to higher ranks than some of the other samurai who lived and fought with Katsumoto. There's something fishy in this movie, I think. He ends up teaching the Japanese what it means to be Japanese. GIVE ME A BREAK! You find this stuff all the time, like in "the Missing," with Tommy Lee Jones playing a white guy pretending to be a Native American who is more true to their way of life than every other Native in the movie. Maybe I'm overly sensitive to these things, but they certainly seem blatant when you look at the take-home message. These movies aren't about tolerance, learning, growth and acceptance; they're about the implied superiority of a group of people who are better at grasping the essence of the cultures than those that grow up in them.

...Hollywood... must burn...

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Old 12-22-2003, 05:04 PM   #20
Neil Mick
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Quote:
Jeff Tibbetts wrote:
These movies aren't about tolerance, learning, growth and acceptance; they're about the implied superiority of a group of people who are better at grasping the essence of the cultures than those that grow up in them.
Couldn't have said it better, myself.
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Old 12-22-2003, 08:20 PM   #21
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Quote:
Jeff Tibbetts wrote:
These movies aren't about tolerance, learning, growth and acceptance; they're about the implied superiority of a group of people who are better at grasping the essence of the cultures than those that grow up in them
Perhaps I am reading it wrong, but you appear to be saying that the group (white people/Americans) take themselves as so superior that they can actually understand things better than (in this case) the Japanese. Do you think that this can never happen? If so, why is it not possible?
Quote:
...Hollywood... must burn...
Uh, without putting it into any sort of context this appears to bet a simply ridiculous statement.

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Old 12-22-2003, 08:50 PM   #22
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Quote:
paul watt (paw) wrote:
My wife an I saw it with another couple yesterday. We all thought the end destroyed whatever merits the movie had.

Regards,

Paul
So I may better understand - are you referring to the final death scene, the confrontation in front of the Emperor, or that he returns to get the girl?

As for the merits of The Last Samurai or "Dances with Gladiators" (I coined this title several weeks ago), I would list them as:

1. Nice bokken scenes

2. Nice bow and arrow scenes

3. Visually stimulating

4. Interesting battle strategy

5. Nice wardrobe

Of course, there were a host of historical inaccuracies, combined with severely inappropriately represented social interactions with every scene that the Emperor was in. However, If this movie had been made by the Japanese (it would have been shorter) we would have made Tom Cruise's character as narrowly depicted as was the Emperor and replaced him with Ken Watanabe's character as the protagonist.

As such, we can still view the movie with this in mind. It then becomes quite a bit more interesting. When I look at the plot and character developments from this perspective, the movie made much more sense to me as a martial artist, and became much more attractive and engaging to watch. I really didn't care to much for the main character anyway, because other than when he is forced to by outside influences, he never really redeems himself at any level. In contrast, when Ken Watanabe makes the statement, "They are all perfect," the subtlety and beauty of his journey is revealed to us all.

I would recommend it simply for the bokken work, as it personally motivates me to continue my training at a deeper level.

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Old 12-23-2003, 06:47 AM   #23
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Hi Shaun!
Quote:
So I may better understand - are you referring to the final death scene, the confrontation in front of the Emperor, or that he returns to get the girl?
Everything from the final battle to the rolling of the credits.

WARNING ---- HERE BE SPOILERS

Firstly, we felt there were too many endings. The ending "bow" at the battle scene. Cruise before the Emperor. Cruise returning to the villiage. Each "ending" caused my enjoyment to drop like a stone.

Second, we felt it a bit much to believe that out of all the rebels, only Cruise survives. Frankly, we suspected that was someone throwing their weight around and changing the script.

Third, Jeff gives a good summary of our thoughts of the returning the sword.

We felt it would have been a better movie if Cruise had died and the voice over could have just told the audience of the Emperor's decision --- or if Cruise had to live, simply do not show the death and keep the voice over as it was (similar to "Braveheart").

Without the many endings, we could have accepted it for what it was and been happy to pay a matinee price to see it. With the endings, I would have held off and rented it when it was released on dvd.

Personally, I thought Cruise's performance was the worst in the movie. He seemed diliberately over the top and had all the subtleness of a buzsaw. In contrast Watanabe was fantastic, but the best performance was Koyuki's Taka --- she was simply amazing.

Happy Holidays,

Paul
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Old 12-23-2003, 07:19 AM   #24
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Despite that chance that someone may not notice your defacto "spolier" notice... Good insights. Yeah, it shouldn't have ended like the piano - eveyone should have died for real!

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Old 01-08-2004, 01:29 AM   #25
Jeff Tibbetts
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Shaun, sorry about the lag, I just now remembered this thread...
Quote:
Shaun Ravens (Misogi-no-Gyo) wrote:
Perhaps I am reading it wrong, but you appear to be saying that the group (white people/Americans) take themselves as so superior that they can actually understand things better than (in this case) the Japanese. Do you think that this can never happen? If so, why is it not possible?
I do think it's quite silly to think that someone could choose to join another culture and then very quickly come to understand more about it than some of the people who grew up in it. If a person devotes a great deal of time and spirit into learning all about something, then it's perfectly conceivable that they may learn things about it that even someone from there didn't think of, but that's not what's happening here. My friend Tetsuya has pointed out things about America and Iowa that I simply never thought about, but again, that's not what's happening in this movie or others like it. It would be a very odd thing, indeed, if, after about six months in America, he decided to try to teach the Americans around him about how they should return to their true essence that he has come to exemplify. So, do I think it's possible to know someone better than they know themselves? Maybe. But absolutely not in six months. Period. And my reaction wasn't just to this movie in that regard but to all the movies that share that thematic elelment. And the Hollywood burning thing... Well that wasn't meant to be taken seriously in or out of context. I have a higher level of connection to and frustration with Hollywood than most people because of my job. I'm certain there are insurance agents out there who wish that all cars would somehow dissapear so they could be free of the troubling phone calls...

I hope that clears things up a bit.

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