A Buddhist priest becomes also a magician, dedicating himself to the protection of life wherever it's needed, whereupon he finds himself in direct service of the Queen. Political intrigue ...
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A Buddhist priest becomes also a magician, dedicating himself to the protection of life wherever it's needed, whereupon he finds himself in direct service of the Queen. Political intrigue tightens around him as it is increasingly assumed that he harbors ulterior motives. Set in Japan's Nara Era (710 - 794 A.D.), the story is loosely based on Mikado (Empress) Koken-Shotoku and Dokyo, a Yamabushi (mountain warrior monk who practices a rugged, intense form of Vajrayana Buddhism founded by his master, Do-en).Written by
The Empress has been ill, despite all the prayers and temples built. Raizô Ichikawa, a Buddhist monk from the mountains is brought to the palace in accordance with a prophecy and lo, the Queen gets better. Celebrations are proclaimed, but on Ichikawa's advice, they are stopped. A tax holiday is proclaimed for the poor, and the rich and powerful are terrified. A rebellion is raised, and crushed, but despite the growing accord between the monk and the Empress, court intrigue continues.
It's set in Japan's Nara Era (710 - 794 A.D.). The story is loosely based on Empress Koken-Shotoku and Dokyo, a Yamabushi mountain warrior monk who practiced a rugged, intense form of Vajrayana Buddhism.
Teinosuke Kinugasa's movie strikes me as complicated. It is a clear story of compassion set against the implacable intricacies of the powerful ever seeking more power. It is also intensely Japanese in a way that is not clear to my Western mind, a modernized -- and thus incorrect -- view of the island nation when it was struggling to find its own mythic identity. In many ways it seems to me that it could have easily been slanted in the other direction, becoming variation of the death of Rasputin.
Kinugasa is a fine director, and his actors are skilled. Nonetheless, when dealing with mythology, it is important to remember that the symbol may remain the same, but its meaning changes in every era, and for every individual. With its black-and-white characterizations, this seems to me a hagiography. It will speak strongly and clearly to those who already believe its message, but be meaningless adulation of clay idols to those who do not.
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