Director Bernard Rose‘s Samurai Marathon is now available on DVD (region 1) and Bluray (region A) in the USA. The movie is truly entertaining and offers a well-balanced mix of action and drama with a good dose of humor. Based on actual historical facts it also has elements of modernity, in this respect the film is a fine tribute to the Samurai Cinema genre.
The Bluray and DVD collector’s editions for Samurai Marathon include a bonus disc which is really worth the extra money: superb making of documentary, premiere event report and various interviews. (Amazon Japan – CD Japan)
The atmosphere of involvement, complicity and good humor from the cast, which pervades the Making of Documentary, can also be felt in the 3SHOT Interview with Takeru Satou, Mirai Moriyama and Nana Komatsu.
The actors are asked about difficult scenes, things they had to care or worry about and if Bernard Rose, being a foreign director, was different from Japanese directors. We get the impression that the shooting was exciting and enjoyable but rather demanding both physically and mentally. For instance, Mirai Moriyama recalls the water he had to swim in was awfully cold.
Takeru Satou had no problem running with others but he was asked to deliver extra speed when he was on his own. Nana Komatsu was a bit worried about her kimono (a very valuable and unique piece) not getting dirty or wet, quite an issue when one considers weather conditions in Japan (end of summer, early fall). The three actors portray director Bernard Rose as a nice and benevolent man who relies a lot on his actors’ ability to be spontaneous.
The interview ends in a rather relax and casual way as we learn that Mirai Moriyama intends to learn the French language (he likes the sound of it) and Nana Komatsu wants to cycle around the entire island of Taiwan 🙂
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.”
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.”