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.”
From Eiga.com yesterday, a series of photographs by Brent N.Clarke and a report on Nana Komatsu -with bits of interview- at the US Premiere of Samurai Marathon in New York last Friday (June 28). The movie was the opening film of the 2019 edition of the New York Asian Film Festival. That night, the young actress received the Rising Asia Star Award.
The article provides a summary of her career, reminds readers she had already worked with a non-Japanese director (Scorsese for Silence in 2016) and quotes her when she received her trophee: I am really honored and feel very happy. I’ve come to New York for the first time, but as an actor, as a person, I’m very thankful to be praised this way by people from another country. The actress humbly added that to be worthy of this award, she would like to continue and become an actress who could grow up greatly.
Asked a few questions by Nobuhiro Hosoki from Eiga.com, she said working with Bernard Rose was a fresh and valuable experience. He is not much into rehearsals and relies a lot on improvisation from his cast. Though she reckoned it could bring a certain level of tension, she found it was very rewarding for the actors.
Regarding this she mentioned that she had properly prepared and rehearsed a fighting scene with two other actors. Though she thought the resulting sequence was fine, Bernard Rose came and said it did not look realistic at all because fighting with swords wasn’t like choreographed work. He subsequently cut that scene. She was first very disappointed but then it helped her adapt to the director’s leaning towards a less preset way of working.
It’s official, Samurai Marathon will be released in US theaters in 2020. According to The Hollywood Reporter,Well Go USA Entertainment has acquired North American rights to Bernard Rose’s film.
“Samurai Marathon is such an engrossing, often moving film — there were times it was difficult to catch a breath,” Doris Pfardrescher, president and CEO of Well Go, said Tuesday in a statement. “Staying true to tradition while finding a place in the quickly modernizing and progressing world is a rather timely [theme], and we feel audiences in North America will connect to this story.”
Bernard Rose on Nana Komatsu: Nana is such an amazing actress and she draws you in during her performance. She is very thoughtful and there is a lot going on behind her eyes. Additionally, she is very witty and funny. You might look at some of her works and think she is a bit flighty, but that is not the case. In fact she is very strong and that is what I wanted for that character.
Nana Komatsu on her role as Yuki Hime: Princess Yuki is a character who lives in a very closed, confined environment. But she has an interest in the Western world and she is really committed to what she likes. And it is not only that, she turns this into action. I was very drawn to that: this woman with this very strong feeling and passion. It was something that I haven’t done in the past, and so it felt really new to me. On top of that, working with a foreign director I thought would help me grow and would challenge me.
Director Bernard Rose and Nana Komatsu, his female lead in Samurai Marathon attended the movie’s US Premiere at the Film Lincoln Center in New York, on the evening of the 28th. The young actress received the Rising Asia Star Award, a special prize for Asian thespians who are deemed to have the potential for a successful international career. She was the first Japanese actress honoured by the festival since Fumi Nikaido in 2014.
The Q&A Session
Interview report: shortly before the Award ceremony, Nana Komatsu was interviewed by Hiroaki Saito for Yahoo! Japan. With him she recalled the time of Kawaki (i.e. The World of Kanako) when she did not really consider being an actress, she wanted to go abroad because she likes old clothes and vintage stuff.
Coming to New York for the first time made things come true yet it gave her a feeling of both excitement and strangeness, as if things were not real, she went to the vintage shops though.
On hearing the news about her award, she told him she was on the “What’s going on? Me?” mode for some time then felt really happy and thankful, seeing it as an exceptional experience with good memories she would never forget.
‘Speaking English makes the world a bigger place‘ she added. With all due respect, reasserting her love for shooting films in her own country, she said she’d like to get a chance to meet and work with foreign directors and actors and would seize opportunities.
She said she felt ready to work hard and face challenges even for small things. The journalist concludes his article with hopes the trip to New York and the Award will be a step forward for her film career on the international scene.
According to the Film at Lincoln Center bulletin, there will be a Q&A session with director Bernard Rose and actress Nana Komatsu for the US Premiere of Samurai Marathon on June 28. The movie will open the 2019 edition of the New York Asian Film Festival which means that she will go to the USA to receive her Rising Star Asia Award.
Friday Jun 28, 7:00pm (Walter Reade Theater, Film at Lincoln Center) Director Bernard Rose and Komatsu Nana in attendance (Introduction and Q&A) Actress Komatsu Nana will receive the Screen International Rising Star Asia Award (source: NYAFF)