by Chris MaGee
The tale of the "Chushingura" or "The Loyal 47 Ronin" has been told again, again, and again in Japanese films and on Japanese television, 32 screen versions are listed at IMDb, but I'm sure there are more. Three of those, Shozo Makino's silent 1928 "Chûkon giretsu: Jitsuroku Chûshingura", Hiroshi Imagaki's all-star "Chushingura: 47 Samurai" (with Yuzo Kayama, Setsuko Har, Reiko Dan, and Ryo Ikebe to name only a few), and Kon Ichikawa's 1994 "47 Ronin" starring Ken Takakura, actually have a place on my DVD shelf along with Hirokazu Kore-eda's jidai-geki revenge tale "Hana" which plays with this most famous of Japanese epics, and now it looks like there will be another version of the "Chushingura" coming our way.
Tokyograph is reporting that Warner Brothers have tagged Japanese director Shigemichi Sugita, the man behind Japanese TV drama "Kita No Kuni Kara" to helm a domestically produced "Chushingura" starring Koji Yakusho (above right) as Seo Magozaemon and Koichi Sato (above left) as Terasaka Kichiemon. For those of you out there who need a little refresher, the story of the "Chushingura" is set at the start of the 18th-century and centers around a moral dilemma. After a daimyo lord named Asano attempts to kill his superior, an Imperial protocol official named Kira, after he is treated in an extraordinarily disrespectful manner Asano is still ordered to commit seppuku due to his offense. He does, but the 47 samurai he employed, who then become ronin, or masterless samurai decide to seek revenge for their dead lord even though it will mean that they will be ordered to commit seppuku as well. Magozaemon is the one samurai who bails on the plan at the last minute, while Kichiemon is ordered to bail so that there will be a surviving samurai who will be able to relate the story of their revenge... and spawn umpteenth number of kabuki, bunraku and of course motion picture adaptation. I hope Kichiemon actually had the foresight to retain the screen rights (just kidding...)
Besides the fact that this adaption has obviously got some top notch acting talent it also marks what Warner Brothers is calling their "first true Japanese film" after having gotten their feet with by being involved in the production and distribution of such films as Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima", Mamoru Oshii's "The Sky Crawlers" and the unfortunaate Japanese remake of Alexander Payne's "Sideways". This "Chushingura" is set to begin shooting in Kyoto this weekend with an entirely Japanese cast and crew, and is slated for a 2011 release.