By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Playing at Fantasia Digital Film Festival 2020 On Demand till Sept 2. Buy your virtual ticket here.
Yuji Shimomura’s Crazy Samurai Musashi is—as the title suggests—an insane attempt in making a movie in one continuous shot. It has the feel of a video game since the camera is mostly focussed on our warrior as the center of attention and everyone rushes to him for a chance at delivering a fatal swing of the sword. I’m reminded of Bushido Blade for the PlayStation.
Sometimes the angle changes, and that’s usually to get in a closeup shot of Musashi (Tak Sakaguchi). Thankfully, there are a few pauses in the carnage to deliver dialogue and give viewers a chance to breathe.
There is a story to this insanity if you do your research. The Yoshioka clan is renowned for their skill with the blade. They’ve churned out formidable warriors and Musashi sent out a formal challenge. He’s there to duel the 9-year-old heir, and it’s easy to figure out who dies. Whether he’s out to commit a massacre or try to get away, the endless supply of grunts (villagers too, I expect) fails at stopping him. Had this been a modern day shootout instead of a fight with swords, he’d be down in no time.
The idea to realize a 17th-century clash on screen is certainly not without its challenges. Shimomura has to plan a large scale live action role playing game scenario rather than improvise as the camera follows Musashi. We can see a few fallen or hurt warriors scramble out of frame, and it almost ruins the illusion. In what’s not is the eventual fatigue Sakaguchi shows, and it’s appropriate to the scene. As the samurai with no equal, his defences falter and you’d think he’d be dead by the one hour mark.
All he wants to face is his next challenge.
Had the game designers of Blizzard Games seen this film, they’d have the perfect vision in how to redesign Diablo (where you’re essentially killing everything on site) from the ground up–complete with how to deal with bosses. Essentially, we’re not dealing with a bird eye view of a combat situation. The variety of camera shots used are varied enough to keep me watching instead of asking, is it over yet? When this movie is on a streaming service and the option to skip ahead exits, jumping ahead to know what happens is not fair play.
3 and a ½ Broken Blade out of 5