21) Scabbard Samurai (2010) Dir: Hitoshi Matsumoto Not Yet Released Date Seen: January 14, 2012 Rating: 4.25/5
Matsumoto has once again hit it out of the park with his latest, a film that I bet virtually no American theater-goers will see. The only thing I would criticize the film for is how monotonous the trial-and-error portion of the title character's journey to greater understanding felt. But even that section, the part where a sword-less samurai tries to save himself from having to commit ritual suicide by making funny faces and doing silly pratfalls, is conceptually fascinating. And the duration of that sequence is key to that (ie: cutting away is counter-intuitive in the sense that it suggests premature defeat). Because that sequence is a product of the Jerry Lewis school of self-loathing, where schtick is a reflection of intense self-doubt.
In short, I love this movie because it's funny and it's melancholically thoughtful. Its highly unconventional denouement feels earned. Matsumoto's character teaches his daughter by example how to be responsible. Admittedly, abandoning your kid is not my idea of being responsible. But as a symbolic gesture of graceful fatalism, I found Scabbard Samurai to be very moving.