By normal standards I should not enjoy “Goemon”.
It is about a Japanese historical figure, Ishikawa Goemon, who rather like the British Robin Hood or Dick Turpin, has built up a whole mythology (films, books, plays, computer games). A robber-bandit, who distributed much of his spoils amongst the poor and needy. I understand the film plays extensively with the standard story, as well as with other historical figures and events. So by all accounts I should be totally lost right?
It also is filmed about 90% in green-screen computer generated scenarios. Think “Sin City”, “300” and “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”. None of which have particularly thrilled me. Nor did the director Kazuaki Kiriya ’s previous effort “Casshern” (never got more than 15 minutes into it). So I should equally hate this right?
So imagine my surprise when I absolutely adored it.
If you are going to make a movie in this way – then you should aim big. Make the generated scenes big and loud and colourful. Do something you could not do with matte paintings and model work. This film does that in spades.
If you are going to make a movie in this way – then you should make sure the quiet moments are effective as well as the money shots. This film does that in spades.
If you are going to make a movie in this way – then make sure your leading man is charismatic and is able to rise above the splendour of the special effects. Yôsuke Eguchi is everything I want from a leading man. And by God, does he look like he is having fun!
Kazuaki Kiriya is by trade a Music Video Director (probably most famous for a number of his ex-wife Hikaru Utada’s music videos). He has a certain visual style which is rather unique and rather stunning. Many Director’s of a similar ilk often fail to move from the 4 minutes of a music video to the 90 minutes or so of a feature film, but I think he succeeded marvellously here.
There are great performances all round, and my eye was also taken by some simply fabulous costume design.
The film rattles along at quite a pace, but still finds time to explore the back-story, and it really does not feel like a succession of set pieces. The film also manages to play with the standard ending of the traditional Goemon story, not only allowing the story to gain some extra nuance, but something rather shocking happens.
It is not perfect – there does seem to be a couple of scenes missing, and some of the supporting cast are a little underused. However, it is an amazing piece of cinema, and gets this viewer’s thumbs up.