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The third in Yoji Yamada's trilogy, this one stands above the other two in the simplicity and delicacy of story and execution.
The film could work as an emblem of all that holds the West in sway about certain aspects of Japanese cinema: the restraint of emotion that seems to speak all the more profoundly of its depth; the brilliantly rendered final act of violence that grips the whole film as we anticipate its conclusion and never disappointing in its realisation; the story that appears esoteric in its details and yet resonates with such universal quality and meaning.
While I also love the work of Japanese-Maestro Miike, this film (and the rest in the trilogy) throws up an interesting counter-point to the oeuvre of Miike. Where Miike is all energy and sensory bombardment, here it is all studied quietude and contemplated action.
A gorgeous film and a perfect example of Japanese cinema's transcendental qualities.