Sunday, December 7, 2014
SLIFF 2014: Uzumasa Limelight
Title: Uzumasa Limelight
Seiichi Kamiyama is one of those highly trained and yet borderline uncredited extras in Japanese sword-fighting films that gets bloodily dispatched, sometimes dramatically and sometimes offhandedly, by the top-billed actor. After the last great chanbara TV series is canceled, Seiichi's rather specialized skills are no longer needed, and he loses part of his pride and most of his purpose. Disliked by the company's new producer, he rarely gets roles even after the genre is revived with a younger, handsomer and trendier cast. Eventually Seiichi finds a calling teaching Satsuki, an ambitious and heartfelt young lady, how to stage-fight. She will have her day in the limelight.
The concept looks great on paper. Casting Seizo Fukumoto, a real-life oft-killed 'Thug #2' and 'Samurai guard #4' in many films from the 1970s, is also inspired. But everything else isn't. The direction is flat and over-earnest. The look is bland and overlit. The story beats are predictable to the point of mechanic, making it easy to get bored since you know where a scene is heading before it’s halfway through. The young actors are not very good, just like the young actors they are portraying. This is a film that is supposed to be feel-good, but it too often it doesn't earn it.