The Last Samurai (2003).

What affect does the amalgamated character of Tom Cruise have on the overall mood of the film? Note: the protagonist he is playing is a composite of Jules Brunet, a French army captain who fought alongside Enomoto Takeaki in the earlier Boshin War, Frederick Townsend Ward, an American mercenary who helped westernize the Chinese army and the fictional John Blackthorne of James Clavell’s novel Shogun (you will need to look up these individuals if you wish to have a clearer understanding of their significance). What is the need for his character? Does he make the plotline easier to relate to for a western audience or is his presence disturbing and offensive to Japanese culture? Furthermore, since he is not an entirely imagined character, does he add some authenticity to the time frame in which the film is taking place?
2. In the film, the screenwriters evidently sympathize with the samurai, who are portrayed as noble and devoted to Japan and the emperor. Historically the samurai class was dedicated to their own interests and those of the Shogun. The so called ‘honor and bushido days’ were long gone at this point in history. Why does the director then opt to glorify their rebellion? Is it a sense of nostalgia or something else?
3. Although the film is a work of fiction, it accurately represents many Japanese customs and their attitude towards westerners. Are their customs clearly communicated to the audience or are there moments in time when the viewer is at a loss about the actions taking place?
4. The oligarchy attempts to assassinate Katzumoto with the use of ninjas. In the west ninjas garner viewer sympathy but in reality they were considered lowlife assassins with no concept of honor. What message does this convey about Omura and his immediate circle? On a larger scale, what does this say about the director’s view of the oligarchy? Were they any different than the shogun?
5. Last but not least, for someone who is unfamiliar with Japanese history and culture, is an easy, if not a very good, introduction?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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