Samurai Marathon 1855 is definitely a bold take on the genre with unexpected yet thoroughly enjoyable elements of comedy. There is action too, especially when Jinnai (Takeru Satoh), Heikuro (Mirai Moriyama) and Princess Yuki Hime (Nana Komatsu) get tough on the baddies.
The film is also a must watch for the journey you get through the beautiful landscapes of the Yamagata Prefecture: kudos to Takuro Ishizaka, director of photography whose work is matched by a haunting score written by Philip Glass. For Nana Komatsu fans, it is a ‘must-not-miss’. As Princess Yuki Hime, one of the modernistic elements of the movie, she looks proud, brave and beautiful.
Here is a special post with screencaps and short clips from the film and the making of documentary. The bonus disc* is a real treat: Amazon Japan – CD Japan. *only available in the collector’s editions.
Bernard Rose‘s movie DVD was released in Japan on Wednesday 24 July. It is available as a standard edition or deluxe edition either on DVD or Blu-ray: Amazon Japan – CD Japan. Below you’ll find selected excerpts from film reviews -with links to the original articles- illustrated with selected screen caps of Nana Komatsu as Yuki Hime.
“Our opener was a big hit, and one of our biggest opening films since Bad Genius[in 2017]. This is quite possibly the best “chambara” / samurai film I’ve seen since Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins; it’s a bit of a paradox that an Englishman directed it, but maybe a sign that cinema can truly be without borders sometimes.” Samuel Jamier, director of the New York Asian Film Festival (source)
Eastern Kicks: “Samurai Marathon is a wonderful narrative about a less known historical fact – the first Japanese marathon. While this historical event had no true effect in the unfolding of history, Samurai Marathon succeeds, by intermingling various narrative threads into an effective narrative structure and allowing dramatic musical pieces support its unfolding, in turning this event into an exciting jidaigeki narrative. Rose might have created a somewhat atypically packaged jidaigeki, but it provides everything one should expect of a contemporary mainstream example of the genre.”
“The ensemble cast is successful in supporting the framing of the historical context. Hiroki Hasegawa’s performance brings his inner-conflict believably to the fore. Naoto Takenaka, for that matter, infuses all his grandfather charm in his role as retired samurai guard. And Nana Komatsu underlines, especially through her fighting sequences, her versatility as an actress.“
Asian Movie Pulse: “Apart from the performances of his cast, most importantly Nana Komatsu and Takeruh Sato, one of the great positives of the film is the visualization of the marathon itself. Using parallel montages of the approaching assassins, Rose and cinematographer Takuro Ishikaza highlight the dynamics and dramatic value of the situation without relying on steadicams. Instead ‘Samurai Marathon’ shows the beauty of the Japanese landscape (…) Additionally, the score conducted by Philip Glass underlines the sense of urgency of these scenes, while also emphasizing the idea of a country at the brink of change.”
“In the end, Samurai Marathon is an enjoyable period piece uniting various storylines into one tale about betrayal and loyalty. With a great cast and an eye for the wonderful landscape of Japan, this is a very interesting drama about a time of change in Japan, a much needed one on the one hand, but also aware of a certain loss on the other hand.“
VCinema: “The pacing becomes steadier by the time the marathon is launched but the film still proceeds at a good pace and plot twists are frequent as are action and even comedic scenes as cheating and betrayals emerge. Neat editing cutting between different characters keeps everything coherent as the course of the marathon runs through fields and along mountain paths.“
“Everyone gets a go at a fight and there are many highlights, from combat on horseback to Nana Komatsu’s Princess Yuki proving to be a rose with many thorns as she scraps with men. Rurouni Kenshin lead actor Takeru Satoh gets a really well-shot duel rich with thrusts, blocks, slides, and stabs that will have audiences on the edges of their seats (…) All liberties taken with the story are in service of making the film a lot of fun as this is a definite crowd-pleaser.“
ScreenDaily: Behind the camera talent is top tier. It’s a handsome picture (lensed by Takuro Ishizaka, who shot John Woo’s Manhunt) with lush, saturated greens and golds contrasting strikingly with the copiously spilled blood. The costumes are designed by Emi Wada, who won an Oscar for Kurosawa’s Ran. And the violent beauty of the visuals is complimented by a hauntingly lovely score by Philip Glass.
Cineuropa: The gorgeous cinematography by Director of photography Takuro Ishizaka (Manhunt, God of War) is a real feast for the eyes. The appealing shots of fields full of flowers and the woods create an unnerving symbiosis with the violent moments, enhanced by the beautiful scenery. The indoor scenes excel with the masterful use of lighting, especially in the nocturnal sequences where the warmth of the light creates an alluring, luminous atmosphere.
HeyUGuys: “When the swords are finally unsheathed, the action isn’t elaborately balletic or gratuitously grotesque, but strikes a perfect balance between being frenzied and easy to follow (…) Although far from sensational or instantly iconic, Samurai Marathon certainly has legs — and its basis in something approaching a true story (the ‘samurai marathon’ is run to this day, often in fancy dress) lends it extra novelty value.”
In January 2018, Cosmopolitan China issued three different editions of the magazine, one with Chinese model Dilireba, one with Korean star Suzy Bae and another one with Nana Komatsu. The editors issued the following statement (translated): “These three ladies were chosen not just for their beauty and popularity but are also proving their skills through their projects“.
Theme song (光る空青く) by j-pop singer Kang Yoon-sung aka “K“
Synopsis: Go Ayano is Chu, a salary man who suffers from hallucinatory bouts which can lead him to violence, he’s become estranged from his wife and family. Nana Komatsu is Yuki, an outpatient and a school girl with a long and painful history of truancy and suicide attempts. Tsurube Shofukutei is Hidemaru Kajiki, the main character, a man who murdered his family. A failed execution broke his spine and he is now an in-patient on a wheel chair in the psychiatric ward of a hospital. Residents and out patients coexist relatively peacefully there until one day a murder case occurs…