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Kagemusha (1980)

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A petty thief with an utter resemblance to a samurai warlord is hired as the lord's double. When the warlord later dies the thief is forced to take up arms in his place.

Director:

Akira Kurosawa
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 20 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Tatsuya Nakadai ... Shingen Takeda / Kagemusha
Tsutomu Yamazaki ... Nobukado Takeda
Ken'ichi Hagiwara Ken'ichi Hagiwara ... Katsuyori Takeda
Jinpachi Nezu ... Sohachiro Tsuchiya
Hideji Ôtaki Hideji Ôtaki ... Masakage Yamagata
Daisuke Ryû ... Nobunaga Oda
Masayuki Yui Masayuki Yui ... Ieyasu Tokugawa
Kaori Momoi ... Otsuyanokata
Mitsuko Baishô Mitsuko Baishô ... Oyunokata
Hideo Murota Hideo Murota ... Nobufusa Baba
Takayuki Shiho Takayuki Shiho ... Masatoyo Naito
Kôji Shimizu Kôji Shimizu ... Katsusuke Atobe
Noboru Shimizu Noboru Shimizu ... Masatane Hara
Sen Yamamoto Sen Yamamoto ... Nobushige Oyamada
Shuhei Sugimori Shuhei Sugimori ... Masanobu Kosaka
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Storyline

When a powerful warlord in medieval Japan dies, a poor thief recruited to impersonate him finds difficulty living up to his role and clashes with the spirit of the warlord during turbulent times in the kingdom. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama | History | War

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Japan | USA

Language:

Japanese

Release Date:

10 October 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Kagemusha See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$6,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (International Cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby | 4-Track Stereo (Japan theatrical release)

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Filming locations used for this picture ranged the whole length of Japan. See more »

Goofs

In the scene where Oda Nobunaga dances the Atsumori. His kimono bears the Mon (insignia) of his (then) retainer Toyotomi Hideyoshi. There's no reason indicated for why he'd do that. See more »

Quotes

Masakage Yamagata: How old are you, sire? Fifty-three, as I remember.
Shingen Takeda: Why?
Masakage Yamagata: And you still behave like a five-year-old child. People gather, scatter, they go left and right following their interests. That is not surprising. But then I find you like this. With such a narrow mind, you must not dream of rulership. Go back to your own domain. You are a mountain monkey. You should be gathering nuts in the mountains of Kai.
See more »

Alternate Versions

In the original Japanese version, there are 20 minutes featuring Kenshin Uesugi. For some reason, these scenes were cut out of the USA version. See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Dirties (2013) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Better than Shakespeare
26 July 2002 | by hart_keithSee all my reviews

I saw the director's cut about twenty years after I first saw the film. Kagemusha is as magnificent now as before, but what has changed in the meantime is my appreciation of the meaning of Shakespeare's plays. The history plays and most of the tragedies were about the political dilemmas facing the new Tudor state. The Elizabethan audience sat on the edge of their seats waiting to see how political order might be restored once it had been set in disarray. The Wars of the Roses sequence culminates in the late political tragedies -- Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Hamlet and Lear. The question is always the same. How is an impersonal modern state possible when its leader is a person, the King? Or is rule by office compatible with the human flaws of the person occupying it? Shakespeare was the client of a conservative aristocratic faction, no rabble-rousing democrat he. But he went so deep into this political question in the course of writing all his plays that he dug deeper into this core issue of modern politics than anyone since.

Kurosawa approaches the same question through the notion of a double,"the shadow of a warrior", Kagemusha. Here the contrast between the office of the political leader and its personal incumbent is brought vividly to life in so many ways. The period is the Japanese equivalent of England's War of the Roses, the transition from feudalism to the beginnings of the modern state. The losing side in this case is the one that tries to resolve the contradiction of personality and office by a subterfuge, a thief masquerading as a lord. The winning side and founder of the Japanese state is the Tokugawa clan. The climactic battle symbolises the passage from traditional to modern warfare, as the horses of the losers are mown down by fusillades of gunfire. The credits run as the corpse of the double crosses a submerged flag whose abstract symbolism shows us which aspects of feudalism the modern state will borrow. Personality is vanquished.

The aesthetic vision animating this movie is incredible. There is so much to look at and admire, perhaps interpret. One striking feature for me was the persistent strong breeze ripping through the banners, a symbol of the winds of change running through 16th century Japan, contemporary to Shakespeare's period. Because this drama was made by and for the modern cinema, in many ways Kurosawa's masterpiece is better than Shakespeare.


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