Trent Film Society Presents Hideo Gosha’s Three Outlaw Samurai (1964), Tuesday, July 17th, 2012, Artspace
The samurai or swordfighting film is, like the American Western, fun and entertaining. What drives the film is the narrative. In Hideo Gosha’s Three Outlaw Samurai we are caught between a governing magistrate and his oppression of eight villages reducing the villagers to poverty. Like Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, the ronin or masterless samurai appear and take the side of the villagers, fighting for them against the numerous foes trying to quash a peasant uprising. And still, the plot thickens: between swordfights the samurai each have their love interests who, not surprisingly, have some relation to the participants in the fighting; a father and a husband for instance. And like all good action pictures we see resolves weaken and witness betrayals.
Post-World War 2 samurai films are also much more than entertainment. In this story we are forced to question the legitimacy of authority and rule, the command to follow an order, and what it means to be honorable and maintain appearances. We’re also demanded, by Gosha, to think about class division and poverty, and inevitably, what it means to do justice.
Gosha’s film is a different breed however than his master Kurosawa and his samurai films – although with both the plot and characters we see a nod to Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. But Gosha’s characters are more psychologically complex, treading the line between good and evil; no side, we discover, is without making appeals to the other. Gosha also makes use of the style of the New Wave: close-ups, temporally co-present scenes, film noir style, and a hyperactive cameraman. These traits of the New Wave again separate him from Kurosawa’s clear and precise technique.
Gosha would go on, after this debut, to make a number of samurai films. And surprisingly for a debut, I hope we all remember this as one of the classics of the genre.