Appearing at first like a standard samurai movie, this Japanese film is a tragic drama with overtones from Japan's classic theaters: Kabuki and Noh. Indeed, the protagonist's unwitting self-destruction resembles that of Oedipus in Greek drama. Gengo (Katsuo Nakamura) is a ronin, a samurai-for-hire, which, according to the samurai ethic, is no kind of human being at all. He spends some time with a courtesan (a kind of countrified geisha, not a prostitute) and the courtesan and her husband rob him. In seeking retaliation, he wreaks havoc in their community, kills the courtesan, and drives her husband to suicide. But all is not as it appears to be. Gengo is a deposed nobleman, and the courtesan, unaware of his identity, was a supporter of his cause. In robbing the anonymous ronin, she was continuing her campaign to raise money to make possible the nobleman's reinstatement. In killing his supporters in this way, Gengo has violated the deepest ethics of feudal lordship.
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