Film fanatics and friends Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. There has been three tens, a nine, two eights, eight sevens, four sixes two fives and two fours so far. How will this week’s choices fair?
After a longer break than anticipated, we reach the halfway point with Yasser’s number 13, a Japanese Samurai movie with an epic climactic battle.
You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.
To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.
Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
Fred: After a slightly longer than expected break we are back and it’s your choice of the week up first. Why did ‘13 Assassins‘ make your list?
Yasser: Mainly for the fight sequence… the graphic fight sequence… the hour-long, graphic fight sequence… Did I mention there was a fight sequence?
FS: (laughs) I remember you mentioning it before I’d seen the film. When I started I remembered what you had said.
YA: Other than the bulls, there’s no CGI in it that I can tell. It’s just pure warfare.
FS: I think they were right to steer – no pun intended – away from CGI as they blatantly couldn’t afford the good stuff. The bulls were not very realistic.
YA: No – possibly the worst ten seconds of the movie
FS: I’m not sure I’d say that
FS: So was there anything else that got it on to your list?
YA: Yeah. They show a very graphic and sadistic side of someone
FS: The villain, Naritsugu (Goro Inagaki)
YA: Ah… what a cunt
FS: He is, isn’t he?
YA: Never have I, from what I can remember of villains, ever hated someone as much as I hated him
FS: Did you not feel he was a bit… well… that there is no rationale behind his behaviour?
YA: Absolutely none what-so-ever. It was all purely for his own entertainment. He had no good intentions behind his actions. He was just an apathetic, inhumane, heartless fuck
FS: I think that made him a bit of a pantomime villain, though. I spent a lot of time thinking ‘why has he done that? what’s it all for?‘
YA: Because he can. His victims are mere servants. He kind of explains that
FS: He does, but it felt like the film-makers realised they had to give an explanation and made up a weak, class-based one. He was quite a poor actor too. He bored me
YA: Oh dear. He was emotionless, but I think that made him more vicious
FS: What really spoilt it was having him eat like a dog. If they wanted to make him a proper psychopath they should have kept him as passive and unemotional whilst acting as normal as possible. By having him eat like an animal, they made him out to be crazy which kind of spoilt it
YA: Was there anything else you hated?
FS: Perhaps it’s the Japanese sense of humour that I don’t get, but every attempt at humour fell flat
YA: You didn’t even find Koyata (Yusuke Iseya) funny?
FS: No. He could have been a good character but he ended up as a let down
YA: (laughs) Maybe it IS just you. You didn’t grow up watching oriental movies, I think
FS: No, but if something is funny I will laugh no matter where is comes from. By making him a clown they missed a trick. It’s fine to have a non-Samurai, mountain man with a touch of insanity, but making him an out-and-out comedy character doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie, which is a bloodbath
YA: I dunno man. I think I might be flogging a dead horse
FS: No you’re not. I enjoyed the film, but you started off by asking me what I didn’t like so it all sounds negative
YA: Okay, okay… phew
FS: The final thing I didn’t like, and you aren’t going to be happy, was the fight sequence at the end. It was so long and i couldn’t understand why the guards didn’t go in on the ‘assassins’ a bit harder. There were moments when the heroes were standing talking to one another and the guards just stood off them and waited for them to finish their chat.
YA: Dude! Are you serious?
YA: So, let me get this straight – one of your quibbles with the movie is that the one-hour battle sequence had some dialogue in which the guards were not fighting the warriors?
FS: It’s not having dialogue that was the problem. It’s bits where I’m thinking ‘he’s surrounded by 20 guys here and the five standing behind him could easily kill him now’ but they just stand there
YA: Also, I don’t think it was dull. It would’ve been dull if they did the same thing again and again, but they used different tactics and killed guards in various different ways
FS: It was all death. I didn’t notice much variation.
YA: This is going to be a fun week!
YA: What did you like?
YA: My favourite has to be Kujuro (Tsuyoshi Ihara). There’s a scene where he tells his student to make sure he kills any of the guards that get past his attacks, and there is katanas all over the show.
FS: I knew you’d like him. He’s an absolute iron man. It’s a classic premise of course, but no less entertaining for that. The unlikely group strung together to face an enemy that far outweighs them. I’ve never seen ‘The Seven Samurai‘ but the plot is similar
YA: I prefer this to ‘The Seven Samurai’, though I reckon you’d prefer that as shows more of the characters.
FS: There certainly isn’t much in the way of character development. There is at least four of the warriors who are non-characters. They just turn up.
YA: I think character development is the biggest element missing from the movie. I have a distinct feeling that the original Japanese release may have gone into that in more depth.
FS: I don’t want you to think I didn’t find the film exciting because the first hour was really enjoyable
YA: I agree. From the first scene where you see the seppuku to the moment where Naritsugu rapes the woman and cuts her husband’s head off. The bit that really got me was when you saw the naked, limbless, dumb girl
FS: Man – that was the grimmest wank I ever had
YA: Oh… (shakes head)… dude… (laughs)
FS: Seriously though, that was horrible and a powerful moment. Her scream stayed with me
YA: It’s not often in movies you see the aftermath of the antagonist’s actions. You see what he’s capable of and develop a real hatred of him
FS: I enjoyed more seeing how the warriors got together and the way Naritsugu’s guards tried to stop them prior to the climactic battle.
YA: I enjoyed the battle of minds between Shinzaermon and Henbai (Masachika Ichimura). They respected each other right up to the end
YA: What else did you like?
FS: I have to be honest and say that though my reaction after I finished watching it was positive, after three or four days I’m struggling to even remember a lot of the plot. I think it’s disappeared in a blur of Samurai swords. I think the film hangs very much on your reaction to that second half – the long battle sequence. If you like it you will like the film, if you didn’t, well…
YA: I’ve never seen a more strategically placed battle on film. It’s like a mini-war with lots of separate battles in different arenas, using different tactics.
YA: Okay – time to sum up and rate it
FS: Whilst watching ’13 Assassins’, for 90 minutes I was really enjoying it. I knew I didn’t think it was a GREAT movie, but I was entertained and found it exciting. I liked the heroes and I wanted them to be victorious. I enjoyed the ‘cat and mouse’ game between Henbai and Shinzaemon, though I didn’t think the assassins were too hot in keeping their plans a secret. The villain was nasty but I found him slightly pantomime and his psychopathic nature was undermined by the eating scene which implied he was just a fruit loop. The attempts at humour were poor, and even the lauded fight sequence, whilst well executed, was far too long and made me want to clock-watch. That said, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained so it gets 6/10.
Later this week: Fred gets the lowdown on ‘Cinema Paradiso’ from Yasser