From a novel by Renzaburo Shibata. Scen.: Kaneto Shindo. F.: Shozo Honda. M.: Kanji Suganuma. Scgf.: Akira Naito. Mus.: Ichiro Saito. Int.: Raizo Ichikawa (Shingo Takakura), Shiho Fujimura (Fujiko Yamaguchi), Mayumi Nagisa (Yoshio Takakura), Masayo Banri (Sayo Tadokoro), Jun’ichiro Narita (Mondo Tadokoro), Matasaburo Niwa (Eijiro Chiba), Teru Tomota (Kihei Shoji), Eijiro Yanagi (Ooinokami Matsudaira), Shigeru Amachi (Soshi Tada), Yoshio Inaba (Giichiro Ikebe). Prod.: Daiei – DCP. D.: 71’. Col.
This remarkable film, Misumi’s most fascinatingly suggestive, was scripted by Kaneto Shindo (1912-2012), one of Japan’s great screenwriters as well as a distinguished director in his own right. Set designer Akira Naito commented that “the script of Kiru was quite abstract, very poetical, and we tried as much as we could to find images to fit the words”. The original title, Kiru, refers to striking or killing with a sword; the title of this restoration renders it more or less literally as Sword-Cut. But the older, non-literal English title, Destiny’s Son, admirably expresses the theme of a film with a premise worthy of Greek tragedy: protagonist Shingo’s mother, condemned to death after assassinating her lord’s mistress, was executed by his father…
The “Kinema Junpo” reviewer suggests that the intention was to make a film in the style of Tsubaki Sanjuro (Sanjuro, Akira Kurosawa’s sequel to Yojimbo, released six months before Misumi’s film). He compared Kiru unfavourably with Kurosawa’s film, claiming that while the latter entertained, Misumi’s film, with its erotic and grotesque elements, seemed merely weird. For modern viewers, in truth, these weird aspects are precisely the source of the film’s fascination. Robin Gatto and Tom Mes describe the film as “one of the very first chanbara films to touch upon quasi-Freudian areas of the samurai psyche”. Hiroaki Yoshida praises its use of space: confined environments suggesting intimacy, while wide empty spaces convey the opposite.
Star Raizo Ichikawa, one of Misumi’s regular collaborators, has the status of a James Dean figure in Japan – a matinee idol who died at a tragically young age. He trained as a kabuki actor before entering the film industry. Having achieved stardom in Mizoguchi’s Shin Heike Monogatari (New Tales of the Taira Clan, 1955), he became one of Daiei’s leading actors, celebrated for his physical grace and his skill in combat scenes. Kazuo Mori, who directed Ichikawa even more frequently than did Misumi, remarked that he carried “a human pain of which he didn’t speak to anyone,” rooted in poor health and an unhappy childhood, and his acting seems to reflect that sadness, a quality that lends particular conviction to his anguished performance here.
Alexander Jacoby e Johan Nordström