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Kagemusha (1980, Tatsuya Nakadi, Tsutomu Yamazaki)

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Kagemusha was Kurosawa’s first film after a prolonged absence from the screen and his return to form that garnered the Palme d’Or at Cannes. At the time it was Japan’s most expensive production at $6 million and was supported by executive producers Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas as well as an international distribution deal through Twentieth Century Fox, which ensured Kurosawa the largest audience to date for his films.

Set in the 16th century, a thief (Tatsuya Nakadi) who has been sentenced to death is given a second chance due to his uncanny resemblance to the leader of a feuding clan, Shingen Takeda (Tatsuya Nakadi). When Takeda is killed in battle, anxious that his death is not discovered and the clan weakened, the thief is installed as the leader’s double in an attempt to fool their enemies. Tutored by Takeda’s brother, the appointment is to last three years.

This double (or kagemusha ) succeeds in his role for a time, settling into the role enough to take on some of the airs and graces of a great warrior and presenting a physical resemblance that successfully fools even members of his own family. However, when the ruse is uncovered he is thrown out and forced to wander the country.

The film is beautifully shot and lavishly produced with intricate detail and some of the most stunning cinematic battle scenes captured on film. Kagemusha’s strength as a director lies in his painterly approach to the epic scenes. The film has found critics who believe it does not quite succeeds in delivering the knock-out emotional punch but what it may lack in human emotional response is more than countered by some of the most rewarding cinematic spectacles seen in recent years.

production details
JP | 180 minutes | 1980
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Script: Akira Kurosawa, Masato Ide,

cast
Tatsuya Nakadai as Shingen Takeda / Kagemusha
Tsutomu Yamazaki as Nobukado Takeda
Jinpachi Nezu as Sohachiro Tsuchiya
Takashi Shimura as Taguchi Gyobu
Kenichi Hagiwara as Katsuyori Takeda
Hideji Ôtaki as Masakage Yamagata
Daisuke Ryû as Nobunaga Oda
Masayuki Yui as Ieyasu Tokugawa
Kaori Momoi as Otsuyanokata
Mitsuko Baisho as Oyunokata
Hideo Murota as Nobufusa Baba
Kôji Shimizu as Katsusuke Atobe
Takayuki Shiho as Masatoyo Naito
Noboru Shimizu as Masatane Hara
Sen Yamamoto as Nobushige Oyamada
Shuhei Sugimori as Masanobu Kosaka
Kota Yui as Takemaru
Yasuhito Yamanaka as Ranmaru Mori
Kumeko Otowa as Takemaru’s Nurse
Tetsuo Yamashita as Nagahide Niwa
Kai Atô as Zenjiro Amemiya
Takashi Ebata as Monk
Hiroshi Shimada as Jingoro Hara
Yu Shimaka as Jingoro Hara
Toshiaki Tanabe as Kugutsushi
Yoshimitsu Yamaguchi as Salt Vendor
Eiichi Kanakubo as Kenshin Uesugi
Akihiko Sugizaki as Noda Castle Soldier
Norio Matsui as Tadatsugu Sakai
Yasushi Doshida as Kazumasa Ishikawa
Nobaru Sone as Heihachiro Honda
Kamatari Fujiwara as Doctor
Francis Selleck as Priest