Thursday, February 05, 2004

The Last Samurai

Anyway, almost a week since I watched the movie and I'm here to write about it.
A reviewer from the pop culture review site that I frequent, Popmatters, said that the movie was a Tom Cruise vehicle. I agree with that to a certain extent. I think that the movie did indeed have tons of moments where ol' Cruise could have sold all the Dove in the world.
But I don't think that the movie was all about TC, or should be read/viewed as a movie about Algren (Cruise) per se. The Last Samurai in the title definitely described the Katsumoto character (Played charismatically by Ken Watanabe) and not Nathan Algren. By definition, samurai have to fit at least 2 criteria.
1) They have to serve a lord unto their death.
2) They have to be born in a samurai family.
Tom Cruise (Algren) was NOT the last samurai. With that knowledge, you can basically say that the movie was truly about Katsumoto. (Although the promoters decided to use the more visibly recognisable Cruise in almost all the posters) What role then did Algren play in this tale?
I saw him basically as a muse of sorts. A watcher who related the story through western eyes (which automatically orientalises and romanticises the east*). Algren was a fallen warrior who was on a journey of redemption, a man who spent the better part of the movie looking for honour in man, and found it in Katsumoto.
I like that Katsumoto was kept away from the camera, creating a figure that was strong and powerful while at the same time fleeting and hidden (almost demure). There were some moments of "over-orientalism" that I felt were just a bit much *cough*haiku*cough*, but overall, Katsumoto was handled quite competently in the movie.
The contrast therefore between the Algren character and Katsumoto was stark (one brash and overexposed American vs. the quiet and unassuming hidden Japanese) and rather effective in my mind. That's the kind of movie that I thought The Last Samurai would be, and that's the kind of movie it was.

*Took one course in Cybercultures run by a lesbian Singaporean living in Australia, probably the most qualified subculture to talk about Orientalism and the Western Gaze...


Post a Comment

<< Home