Japanese cult director Miike remakes samurai classic ‘Thirteen Assassins’ for new generation

By Sheri Jennings, AP
Thursday, September 9, 2010

Japanese cult director in Venice with samurai film

VENICE, Italy — Japanese cult director Takashi Miike says he remade the 1963 classic “Thirteen Assassins” to help Japan’s younger generation learn about the past.

The film is set about 150 years ago, toward the end of the samurai period. An esteemed samurai, Shinzaemon Shimada, played by Japanese superstar Koji Yakusho — best known to international audiences for his roles in “Babel” and “Memoirs of a Geisha” — calls on 12 other elite warriors to end the sadistic rule of Lord Naritsugu.

“I wanted the audience to realize that this story is not taking place in the remote past, but rather in a recent past when our grand-grand parents lived,” the director told a news conference Thursday ahead of the film’s premiere in competition for the Golden Lion. “It is our story, the story of our everyday life. In Japan, contemporary history is something children do not know very well.”

The movie is a remake of Eiichi Kudo’s black-and-white classic of the samurai genre.

Stylish and intricately choreographed, the story line presents the noble ideals often associated with samurai, for example, when early in the film Shimada says the greatest honor he could achieve as a samurai would be to die a “noble death.”

“Fate smiles on me,” he says when the opportunity to face off against Lord Naritsugu comes his way.

The film also relies on Miike’s trademark use of violence. He also gives each samurai a distinctive personality, deepening interest in the characters.

The film comes to Venice competition with a strong production pedigree behind it. Jeremy Thomas, the project’s executive producer who met Miike in Venice a few years ago, worked on Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 Oscar-winning film “The Last Emperor.”

The film’s other executive producer, Toshiaki Nakazawa, was behind the film “Departures,” which won the best foreign film Oscar.

Miike was last in Venice with the 2007 film “Sukiyaki Western Django,” in which actor and director Quentin Tarantino had a cameo.

Tarantino, a big fan of Miike’s films, is president of this year’s jury, which will decide the winner of the Golden Lion on Sept. 11.

will not be displayed