Fantastic Fest '11! Nordling Loves A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI!
As I've said before, this is my first Fantastic Fest. And I'm having an amazing time, but I'm bummed that I've missed so many previous years. I'm especially upset that I've missed Yoshihiro Nakamura's previous two films that have played here, FISH STORY and GOLDEN SLUMBER. Both films garnered enthusiastic responses and then both disappeared over here in the States. There are probably ways to secure copies of those films, and I should make the effort to do so. Because after seeing A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI, one of the most charming, joyous family films I've ever seen, I need more. Nakamura comes from a completely cynical-free world, and it's a world I want to visit again and again.
Just judging from Talkbacks and general comments, there's a lot of bitterness out there. Everything is viewed through a prism of suspicion and genuine joy is not easily embraced. Now I'm likely wrong. Maybe there are way more optimists out there than is readily apparent. But some days it's diffcult to tell. We here at Ain't It Cool for the most part don't operate from that place - we are optimists and dreamers here, and that's just the way we like it. So when a film like A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI comes along and just completely validates our worldview, well, speaking for myself, all is right with the world.
Hiroko (a terrific Rie Tomosaka) is raising her son Tomoya (Fuku Suzuki) alone. She's made the decision some time ago that she wants to work, and be useful, and that conflicted with her former husband's worldview. She's struggling to manage her time between her job and taking care of her son, and it's taking its toll. But things change when Yasube (Ryo Nishikido) almost literally drops into their lives. Although he says he's a samurai from almost 180 years ago, Hiroko thinks he's probably out of his mind. But he needs help and a place to stay, so she takes him in.
What follows isn't conventional in any sense of the term in that Yasube is the fish-out-of-water in this modern world, but he quickly adjusts to life in modern Tokyo. Because he can see that the world has changed in regards to how women are treated, he decides to take it upon himself to help Hiroko with young Tomoya and the home duties. Samurai don't do anything half-assed, and soon he's the master of the home, cleaning and especially cooking for the two. Bonds begin to form between the samurai and the boy, and between the samurai and the young mother. Sure, in writing this sounds like another romantic comedy, but I love the way Nakamura's mind works. He takes the story to a new place that I would have never considered in a samurai film, and how the film builds from that is best discovered and not read about.
But throughout the film, optimism and joy reign supreme, and there are moments of sheer happiness that one has to either cry or applaud. There are scenes in A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI that play like a truly strange version of BIG NIGHT, down to a ROCKY-esque "sporting" event that has to be seen to be believed. Throughout the film, Yasube never changes what is intrinsically him - that he wants to matter, to find a place in the world, and if he must adapt to modern life to do that, he will with no complaint. It's interesting how the film transports samurai ideals to a modern sensibility, and makes it work - Yasube is noble and kind, but he isn't afraid to flex, either. It's a great role and Nishikido is completely convincing and winning.
Also winning is child actor Fuku Suzuki, who is adorable. It's one of those genuine child performances that doesn't feel like acting. Suzuki seems to be reacting from a real place of wonder and happiness, and when he cries even the most stone-hearted cynic will feel a little pinch in his heart. It's one of those child performances that ranks with Henry Thomas in E.T. or Haley Joel Osment in THE SIXTH SENSE.
A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI is completely accessible and a truly great family film. I even think that if they simply dubbed the film and released it here in the States that it could see some success - audiences know enough about life in Japan and their past that it's not a struggle to follow - and I really hope that people get the opportunity to see this wonderful film. It deservedly won the Audience Award here at Fantastic Fest, and should be embraced by children of all ages. A beautiful film.
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Sept. 27, 2011, noon CST
If this is in the same vein of quality, I am totally there!
Sept. 27, 2011, 12:07 p.m. CST
Sept. 27, 2011, 12:09 p.m. CST
Hope this becomes available soon. Optimistic movies seem to be harder to find these days!
Sept. 27, 2011, 12:39 p.m. CST
With good reason wouldn't you say?
Sept. 27, 2011, 12:56 p.m. CST
Life is for the most part awful. The odds are heavily against the optimists.
Sept. 27, 2011, 12:57 p.m. CST
AND HIS SAMURAI! Briancoxed.
Sept. 27, 2011, 1:01 p.m. CST
by Andrew Quinsatt
Come on America, I want to share this with my friends and they all don't have Region Free DVD Players... It's hard to spread the love when we don't get a freaking R1 release!!!
Sept. 27, 2011, 1:38 p.m. CST
Get posting, AICN fellas.
Sept. 27, 2011, 3:16 p.m. CST
but easy up there tiger, this isn't the Vatican. This is bat country.
Sept. 27, 2011, 4:28 p.m. CST
Then again, the boy band members have started putting up relatively impressive performances (considering their usual roles doing bullshit TV). Naritsugu in "13 Assassins"? Boy band dude. Gantz in, well, "Gantz"? Boy band dude. And this samurai guy? Boy band dude. Weird. Having seen him in other things, the kid is truly adorable, which is more than likely why I'd watch this film. The synopsis reminds me a bit of "Millions" (in its hopefullness and whatnot). Anyone else get that vibe?
Sept. 27, 2011, 4:47 p.m. CST
Sept. 27, 2011, 5:08 p.m. CST
I agree with Nordling on almost all counts. This is the feel-good timeslip story of the year, to be enjoyed with someone you care about, preferably sharing a Japanese Mini-Stop convenience store custard pack. But honestly, Fuku Suzuki wasn't that great. He's the typical Japanese child actor whose empty expressions carry him blandly through to the next emotional scene.
Sept. 27, 2011, 5:09 p.m. CST
...and God in a Coin Locker. Much better companion to Fish Story on your shelf.
Sept. 27, 2011, 5:28 p.m. CST
by Andrew Quinsatt
Sept. 28, 2011, 2:56 a.m. CST
The Twilight Samurai and the Hidden Blade.
Sept. 28, 2011, 8:32 a.m. CST
by Andrew Quinsatt
I need to revisit both those films again.. The last time I watched it I fell asleep.... 13 Assassins is still the best samurai movie made in the last 10 years or so... That movie is just fucking awesome!!!
Sept. 28, 2011, 2:17 p.m. CST
Look forward to it!
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