I finally got around to watching Samurai I, the first film of the Samurai Trilogy. You may recall that I discovered it while watching the documentary The Cats of Mirikitani where Mirikitani rents the film and watches it—a great symbol of just how much his life has improved. I am always open to a new Toshirō Mifune movie, and what’s more, I’ve been watching any Japanese film I can find recently. Despite the title, however: this is a love story.
The film starts with Takezo (Mifune) convincing his friend Matahachi, to run away to war with him for the glory of it. Matahachi does so, even though he is betroved to Otsu. The war doesn’t go well, and afterward, the two end up hiding out on the farm of a widow and her daughter. Eventually, Matahachi goes off with the mother and daughter and marries the daughter. Good riddance with that plot. This is when the movie starts to get good.
Takezo returns to his village to tell Matahachi’s mother that her son is not dead. This all gets uncomfortable, because Otsu wants to know why he is alive and yet not home, with her, getting married. Meanwhile, the whole village is searching for Takezo who is wanted for treason. Unfortunately for them, Takezo seems to be able to beat any group of up to ten men. In all the comings and goings, Otsu and Takezo slowly fall in love.
The only person who manages to capture Takezo is the priest Takuan, who convinces him to turn himself in—twice! The first time, Otsu helps Takezo to escape. The second time, the priest tricks Takezo into studying so as to control his wild nature, but he convinces the two young lovers that they will be together after his years of study are over.
After Takezo becomes a Samurai (three years later), he is sent on a trip to continue his education. Otsu begs him to take her with him. He says he will, but when she goes to pack, he disappears, leaving here a message: “Soon I will be back. Forgive me.”
It is a beautiful ending. It isn’t all that sad, because this is a trilogy, and I figure they will finally get together at the end of Samurai III. I will let you know.
 I can’t see this title without thinking of Bruce Cockburn’s wonderful and horrific The Mines Of Mozambique off The Charity of Night album (sorry, the song isn’t available by itself):