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Although illiterate, he dreams of being a great man and therefore becomes as guilty of the sin of hubris as a ruler in Greek tragedy.
The achievement of his dream of greatness also spells his destruction. The earthy, brutal realities of his world are forever puncturing his pretensions to grandeur. But then this is a film of gesture and nuance, ever inviting us to sense its timelessness, its eternal truths beyond its wealth of incidents. You can well imagine how overwhelming Onimasa seems to Matsue Noriko Sendo , an adolescent girl whose parents are giving her to him as the price for setting them up with a shop.
Onimasa is absolute master of his wife Shima Awashita , whose impassive countenance and hard tone masks untold pain and loneliness. Under his roof live also a pair of concubines and more than a dozen retainers, as loyal as samurai, and at last a natural daughter by yet another mistress , who grows up as fragile and ill-fated as Ophelia played by the delicate, Geraldine Chaplin-like Kaori Takasugi, a real heartbreaker. In an environment in which women have no role but to serve men, Matsue, who possesses the resolve of her adoptive father, dares to hold out for an education.
The turning point for both father and now-grown daughter now played by exquisite Masako Natsume is a railway strike which Onimasa is hired to break up. But a strike committeeman Kei Yomomato asks Onimasa how he can consider himself a great man if he sides against the workers. And when the subsequently imprisoned Yomomato receives visits and a volume of Rilke poems from Matsue, they soon fall in love. An undeniably symbolic dog fight which also makes for Onimasa an underworld enemy who will seek vengeance two decades later , the tumultuous railway strike and a concluding classic samurai duel in yet!
For example, he and his rival drive to their ancient, deadly ritual of honor in trucks! Gosha has a glorious sense of the visual, equaled by his skill with actors, who at times move in such a stylized way as to seem choreographed. Throughout, Gosha cuts to Awashita, relying upon her expressive skills to convey not only her true feelings beneath her rigid facade but also to serve as a kind of running commentary.