Skip’s Quips: In the Wake of Sacred Samurai

Blog Sketch 082813The last thing we need is another movie based on the story of the 47 ronin.

But now we have one … starring Keanu Reeves, no less. And seemingly reimagined, with all sorts of supernatural goings-on.

I think we should reimagine the Declaration of Independence, while we’re at it. And maybe the signing of the Magna Carta.

Yes, it’s a famous story, and famous stories deserve to be retold. But we’ve already had perfectly good movies made of this tale, helmed by directors ranging from Kenji Mizoguchi to Hiroshi Inagaki. Do we really need another version—especially one that appears to meld the stylized grotesquerie of 300 with the tiresome posturing of The Matrix?

Someone please give me a nice Zeami Noh play to immerse my brain in.

Hollywood has always tweaked history to make it more cinematically palatable. Movies have to be entertainment, and that sometimes means the events transpiring onscreen don’t quite match those in real life. Yet there’s a distressing trend nowadays to completely overhaul venerated stories from our past while adding extraneous details—such as over-the-top violence—to get the desired audience.

The point is being missed. And as that’s happening, the films lose their value.

A strong director can help make this bitter medicine go down. Quentin Tarantino certainly worked wonders with Inglourious Basterds, as flawed as that movie was. But these films are cinematic fantasies, merely “inspired by” rather than “informed by,” and any attention to historical detail, I feel, is irrelevant. They’re to authenticity as reality TV shows are to life.

Hopefully, one day, we’ll have a based-on-true-events film come out without the trappings of revisionism. Perhaps we need a story so hallowed that any adjustments would be taboo.

I can’t think of any, however. I already know nothing’s sacred.

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