Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Oda Nobunaga - The Lucky Adventurer (1959)

Let me start this post with a huge THANK YOU to my friend Barbara for providing me with the movies that I'm going to review soon.

In fact, as my PC is back in action, I'm here to talk with you again about movies dedicated to Nobunaga!
Today I'll refresh for you a film dated 1959, Oda Nobunaga - The Lucky Adventurer, a movie that tells Nobunaga's quests covering a span of roughly ten years, from 1551 (Nobuhide's death) to 1560 (the Battle of Okehazama), and how he moved his first steps from "Fool of Owari" to "Conqueror of Japan".
This movie, as usual, is based on a novel. This time the selection fell on a long story in eight chapters by Yamaoka Souhachi called "Oda Nobunaga".

Nobunaga was played by Nakamura Kinnosuke: besides being a popular kabuki actor and some celebrity by now, I'm familiar with this guy because he played Takeda Shingen in "Furinkazan", the taiga drama of 1969 dedicated to Yamamoto Kansuke... Such a familiar face and expressivity, I recognized him almost instantly!

You can tell that this actor comes from kabuki, as his expressions are quite forced and stereotypical every now and then, but in a very "professional" way that doesn't bother the viewer, but grant that "colour of authenticity" that one would expect from a movie of the 60s, and most importantly, from a samurai of the '500s.
I read that Nakamura (Yorozuya..?) is quite specialized as an actor of jidaigeki, and damn, it shows.
Looking at him playing Nobunaga, or Shingen, is like watching John Wayne playing a cowboy:

In fact, as in the case of John Wayne, one could say that his acting is a bit monotonous, despite its effectiveness, but every now and then he comes with some pure flash of genius, a perfect expression, a peculiar light in his eyes, and it's easy to forgive him the impression that his Nobunaga and his Shingen are pretty much the same person...

Another character that gets to shine in this movie, probably because of Nakamura's acting, is the Hirate Masahide played by Tsukigata Ryunosuke:

It must be noted that Nobunaga grieves more for Masahide than for his father, a reaction explained by the strict relationship that the two men shared, as Masahide acted more like a father than a tutor for Nobunaga.
Because of this he found himself to face the choice of worrying about Nobunaga or leaving him free-- As it was impossible for him to leave the boy free to face his destiny because he would have restrained him with his worries and scolding, Masahide decided to kill himself, thus throwing Nobunaga in the world of adulhood.
I liked the subtleness of this character: his thoughts and opinions were expressed with his gestuality rather than words, and I found it very intriguing. It made a nice contrast with Nobunaga's acting, brisk and lively.

The disappearance of Masahide lets another character into the scene, the vicious Saito Dousan, Nobunaga's father-in-law, here played by Shindo Eitaro:
In this movie the meeting between Nobunaga and Dosan that happened in 1553 was originally intended as Dosan paying visit to Nobunaga in Kiyosu castle, as the intention of Dosan was to attack the castle and Nobunaga, destroying the Oda de facto.
Once Masahide died, Nobunaga had to face this first challenge by himself, and he decided to go to meet Dosan to Shotokuji, instead.
Seen as a useless act of bravery, Dosan and his fellow vassal laugh the matter away, but they are forced to change their mind once they realized that Nobunaga's soldiers didn't look just better equipped than the Saito's but that the deal with Nobunaga's "foolery" was all a fraud in the first place, and that Nobunaga was quiiite more farsighted that he looked.
Everything ends in joining hands and singing kumbaya to the shock of Nouhime, who was ready to grieve the death of her husband.

--Nouhime here is played by Kagawa Kyoko.
There's not much to say about her performance: she's only asked to be pretty and devoted, she did it magnificently:
I found it fun how the "transformation" of Nobunaga from country rascal to proper bushi shocked her so much: she was supposed to be the closer person to Nobunaga after Nobuhide, as she grasped her husband's greatness before everyone else, but such a superficial change distressed her so much..! To be honest, I can totally understand that, but still--!
Nouhime covered an important role in the battle of Okehazama, in fact she's the one to give to Nobunaga the idea of ambushing the Imagawa's armies during a stop by carelessly saying that one could attempt to kill more than one man during their sleep.

An interesting character is Hideyoshi, here played by Nakamura Katsuo, who is Shinnosuke's younger Brother nonetheless:
He's presented as a self-taught strategist, a wanderer who traveled across the whole country and had informations about every province and daimyo there... Again, a resemblance to "Furinkazan"-- But also an interesting twist on the rendition of Hideyoshi's character.

--A special fangirly mention for Satomi Kotaro, that in this movie played the role of Niwa Nagahide, the young Manchiyo:
Such a pretty boy!!
You may be shocked by his recent picture on Wikipedia..!

Anyway, going back to our story-- After Dosan, who's now Nobunaga's faithful ally, our "adventurer" has to face another huge crisis, the invasion from the army of Imagawa Yoshimoto, who decided to go to Kyoto to proclaim himself as the new shogun, and to do that he entered Owari so to reach the Capital.
Nobunaga showed again his amazing strategic skills. He kept all his vassals in the dark about his plans for a surprise attack, thus destroying the role of Imagawa's spies: in the end those with the most confused ideas were his enemies, who were especting to place Kiyosu under siege.

Nobunaga kept playing the fool, scheming his actions as he put up a vain facade:

He partied all night long, but when nobody was looking at him, he met with useful allies, imposing his charisma.
On the picture above is Togami Joutaro in the role of Hachisuka Koroku.
Koroku was a so-called "man of the fields", in this movie a ronin who "fell from grace", now a full-time bandit.
It's thanks to him and his band that Nobunaga managed to keep track of Imagawa's army and forced him to stop to take a pause in an appropriate spot to launch his attack.

Imagawa Yoshimoto is played by Yanagi Eijiro:
It was a pretty standard rendition, the actor conveyed Yoshimoto's superficiality quite effectively... I wonder if someday I'll be graced by a Yoshimoto who showed some balls as in my favourite ukiyo-e!

The "Atsumori" is properly danced before Nobunaga left the castle to launch his attack.

Nakamura is a kabuki actor, hands up!
His interpretation is fluid and perfect but it also manages to show some grit, putting all his vassals on alert!!

An interesting scene is that of Nouhime presenting Nobunaga a japa mala, buddhist prayer beads, before he rushed outside:
Since the whole attack is presented as a whole huge run towards the Imagawa's camp, the scene to Atsuta shrine was omitted-- But they wanted to signify Nobunaga's dangerous situation and how he could use some "luck" from the Gods... It was an interesting touch.

Nobunaga's grinning face as he approached the Imagawa's camp is priceless:

I wanted to share these two shots with you not just for Nakamura's expressions, but mostly because of the strange kabuto..!

In the end Nobunaga is victorious, as Yoshimoto got killed without much ado-- The whole battle ended in just two hours!
Nouhime was glad to see her husband back in one piece and together they are celebrated by the people of Owari:
Thus ends the first step of Nobunaga into the conquer of Japan.

What can I say, it's dated, stereotypical and naive in many parts, but still an entertaining movie.
It doesn't try so hard to give an explanation for everything and when it does it's done in an intriguing way.
I suggest you to give it a try, as I would suggest you to give a try to "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral", then I leave the job to your fancy for jidaigeki!


  1. Grazie per questa recensione! E' stato un piacere poterti passare questi video, credo che questi film meritino una chance! Mi è piaciuta molto l'interpretazione di questo attore, ho trovato il film godibile. Ma per merito del tuo post ho capito dove lo avevo già visto. Già, perché non mi ero proprio accorta che fosse lo stesso attore che interpretava Shingen in Fuurin Kazan, anche se ho passato quasi tutto il film a fissare il suo visto, pensando : "ma io questo qui l'ho già visto".

    Di recente mi sono impadronita di due film interessanti: uno è quello su Akechi Mitsuhide, uno quello su Saito Dosan. Entrambi molto interessanti, a modo loro. Non vedo l'ora di parlartene!

    1. Io l'ho riconosciuto subito, ahahah XD !! Poi ho fatto una ricerchetta su Google e sono stata felice di avere la conferma XD !!
      Dopo aver recensito il film con Ken Watanabe voglio guardare anche quello di Ieyasu del '65, anche quello è tratto da un romanzo di Yamaoka Souhachi e anche lì Kinnosuke fa la parte di Nobu! Sono molto curiosa!

      Grandiosi quei film *_* !! Li avevo notati anch'io ma non ho avuto il cuore di comprarli XDD Per curiosità, li hai presi su SamuraiDVD..? Quanto hai pagato di spese postali..?
      --Oltre a parlarmene è vero che me li presterai..? (x'DDD)