This film is a classic from the 50’s which tells the story of the famous and most revered swordsman in martial arts history: Miyamoto Musashi. This film is the third in the series and tells the audience about his most significant fight, the historic duel between Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro, a powerful swordsman and ronin.
We’re introduced to Sasaki first in the film, as he ponders upon his long-time ambition – the fight Musashi, a fight he is confident he will win.
Shortly after meeting Sasaki, we’re introduced to Musashi as he gently handles a tournament fighter trying to pick a fight with him and a young boy travelling alongside him.
As Sasaki does his best to track down Musashi and organize the duel, Musashi goes about his business and the two eventually catch up, organizing their fight. After being postponed, two women named Otsu and Akemi do their best to get the attention of Musashi in a kind of old fashioned love triangle.
But as time goes by the date of the duel approaches and the two must face off to see who the greater swordsman is.
A classic take on one of the greatest Martial Artists of all time
Musashi is perhaps one of the most significant figures in Martial Arts history, earning his name one the battle field, unbeatable in deadly battle and duels, so naturally this movie had a lot to live up to and it nails it in a classic fashion.
This movie seems to demonstrate his character as just and focused more than anything, focusing less on his combative prowess (at least until he fights). Although it feels a little romanticized it comes across very naturally bringing memorable character to the name of Musashi.
The general direction and flow of the film is done in such a natural way that seems to be lost with modern day film making. We get an feel for the future Musashi is contemplating, and also his life so far. Its a movie that seems to create a deeper universe in the viewers head then what you just see on screen, extremely well done.
The Action & Martial Arts
most of the films action is saved for the end of the film, telling the story first and foremost to set up for the historic duel to finish things off. As usual some decent swordwork is displayed, but the ‘Musashi specific’ themes are very present in this film.
We see Musashi arrive on the beach, standing between his opponent and the sun, effectively blinding him whilst fighting him off with a wooden sword or bokken. The entire nature of the fight scene seems to be focused around his fighting philosophy and not just action.
The only thing that I thought may be a shortcoming was the holding of his sword, with the handle held high and sword help up straight up above his head. I may be wrong, but I believe it was held at an angle to disguise the length of the blade from his opponent, as opposed to almost perfectly vertical (in the film). This however is a tiny detail and not really worth worrying about, but would have just polished it off in terms of authenticity had they known to include it.
Overall it’s masterfully done and passes on his fighting strategies to the audience extremely well while selling Musashi’s legacy and immortalizing him further. Fans of martial arts history will enjoy this film!
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island – Criterion Collection
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
The Samurai (Musashi) Trilogy