in all its beauty is the
setting for vengeance.
So I have finally managed to watch 許されざる者 (ゆるされざるもの), the Japanese remake of the Clint Eastwood film Unforgiven from the early 1990s. Directed by Lee Sang-Il, and starring Ken Watanabe, Akira Emoto and Yuya Yagira. I saw Unforgiven years ago but I wouldn`t know it well enough to be able to compare and I`m not really going to watch a film just to be prepared for its remake so …. I didn`t and I`ve no idea therefore how they compare.
Anyway, interesting movie set in my favourite part of Japan ….. Hokkaido : ) More specifically Washiro in eastern Hokkaido, which I did not get to the last time I was there. It gives you a sense (not even half the story I bet), in film mode, of what the Ainu were treated like by Japanese settlers who had come to Hokkaido from Honshu and other parts of Japan. I have never heard Ainu spoken in a Japanese film to date (a few lines of dialogue are spoken here and there throughout this film through the Ainu language), so that was another interesting aspect of the film. A previous post of mine gives you some Ainu words, mostly relating to nature so do check it out. The Ainu actually prefer the word Utari rather than Ainu which was always used with a derogatory nuance.
The women in this film, who are prostitutes in the town of Washiro, seek revenge on two brothers, one of whom cruelly attacked one of them for allegedly mocking his tini-ness, cutting up her face and other parts of her body. They put out a reward for whoever will kill these brothers as nobody else, including the new government and the person in charge, will punish them in a serious manner. Women got a raw enough deal. Women who were prostitutes got an even worse deal. The three above-mentioned actors play the main characters, one of them a man known as Junpei the Killer (played by KW), who travel together to Washiro to carry out the task and earn the reward, but before they arrive in town, another person does, a former samurai from the Choshu gang of the Choshu/Satsuma band of warriors from the Satsuma rebellion, with a biographer in tow. He is keen to hang onto his samurai glory, but is humiliated by the town`s chief lawman (sheriff/judge?). This person has no time for now ex-samurai (enforcing the no swords rule fiercely), but also has no time for the two brothers who are to be attacked, nor any one out to kill them (even though he does not care whether they live or die, as he says, because apart from the fact they are ex-samurai who he hates, at least he has the heart to despise such an act against women). Ironically, the Ainu were pushed up to Hokkaido by the Shogun and his samurai and now in 1880, ex-samurai who lost in the war against the Emperor, are in Hokkaido and have been chased up there by the government now in place, who make sure when they find them that they are stripped of their samurai status just as they would be in other parts of Japan.
So, if you haven`t seen it and you want to see Hokkaido in all its wild beauty or you want to see KW looking pretty wild (and being pretty wild), as well as other very good actors doing their stuff in an 1880s setting (it is a jidaigeki film after all – a period piece) then you`ll probably appreciate this film.