by Chris MaGee
Here is a bit of very sad news. There are so many of us whose gateway to Japanese film was through such classic films as Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" and "Yojimbo", Akira Kobayashi's "Harakiri" or Kenji Misumi's "Lone Wolf and Cub". No matter how far we may stray from the samurai many of us harken back to these sword-wielding warriors when we're asked to define what we love about Japanese film; so it was with a real pang of sadness that I read and watched this report from Al-Jazeera's English service.
The report focuses on an aging troupe of martial arts actors whose specialty is recreating samurai battles for motion pictures. One of its main performers, Seizo Fukumoto, admits that, "In my 50-years doing this interest in martial arts epics has always gone up and down. This is the lowest it's ever been." His troupe once numbered 100 performers, but now it has dwindled to only 20. Their last big job was starring as extras in the Tom Cruise epic "The Last Samurai" 7-years ago and now this report finds them putting on stage shows (like the one above) at Toei's Kyoto Studio Park.
You can watch the full news report below. Hopefully upcoming releases like Takashi Miike's "Thirteen Assassins" will resuscitate the interest in jidai-geki and chanbara feature films. Fingers crossed...