My Cultural Diet

356 reviews of movies, TV shows, books, restaurants, etc. My own private Goodreads, Letterboxd, and Yelp all rolled into one (more info here). Ratings are 100% subjective, non-scientific, and subject to change. May contain affiliate links.

Heaven and Earth
I watched this on VHS almost 25 years ago, and something about it stuck with me over the years. So I was disappointed when it didn’t quite live up to my memories. Visually, Haruki Kadokawa’s Heaven and Earth is often stunning and even feels like the platonic ideal of a samurai movie, be it the quieter scenes when characters are framed against falling cherry blossoms or wandering through a snowy forest, or during massive battle scenes employing thousands of extras and hundreds of horses. (The film was released in 1990, so no CGI here. The battles were filmed in Canada, though, so it’s a little weird knowing those are the Rockies looming behind all those samurai.) Story-wise, however, this retelling of the historic conflict between two Japanese warlords (Nagao Kagetora and Takeda Shingen) falls flat. There’s potential for interesting arcs — Kagetora renounces all earthly pleasures, including love, to achieve his goals, only to later abandon his throne in fear of what the war is doing to him, spiritually — but the movie never really develops them. As a result, it’s hard to get too emotionally involved in the movie’s storyline; it’s very remote and detached. That, combined with the running narration and captions, makes Heaven and Earth feel more like a made-for-TV documentary than an epic samurai film à la Akira Kurosawa or Masaki Kobayashi.

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