I have always preferred Samurai films to Westerns, although I do love the look of a Western on the Big Screen. I am aware of the crossover between Western and Japanese films, Cowboys and Samurai, but need to watch more of each to understand it better. Yesterday evening I went to see a Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. Being unfamiliar with the original, I had nothing to compare it to, and I think this was probably a good way to enjoy the film on its own merits. If someone had described the film to me as I eventually classified it to myself, I would have known I was going to love it – Ken Watanabe as a troubled ex Samurai who joins an old colleague as a bounty hunter when his frugal existence becomes unbearable. The film is set in Hokkaido (the only part of Japan I want to visit), with Ainu taking the place of Native Americans in Hollywood Westerns. As well as the storytelling, I loved the use of Hokkaido’s landscapes and the glimpse into the Ainu’s life, something I’ve not seen before. The Director, Lee Sang-il stated that he saw the original film when he was young and didn’t quite understand it, though he was fascinated. What intrigued him most was that the Western trope of good guy/bad guy had been subverted by using complex characters with complex motives, which is played out impeccably in this Japanese version.
There is no guy in the white hat.