What to get for a samurai movie fan/middle school teacher?
December 6, 2005 8:39 PM   Subscribe

What to get for a samurai movie fan/middle school teacher?

He loves classic samurai movies, and has probably seen every one that Netflix and Blockbuster have in stock. Any recommendations for a DVD he'd love but might not have seen yet? (If it helps to know, his reading tastes tend toward philosophy and early 20th century literature.) He teaches middle schoolers in a district that's predominantly Hispanic, mostly working poor. So things for the classroom also are a gift possibility. Budget unfortunately is very limited ($10-20), but this is a really good guy who's had kind of a tough year. He deserves a gift that brings much joy. What can you recommend?
posted by nakedcodemonkey to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"the one-armed samurai" is hard to find but i saw it last year at a film festival of obscure japanese movies. it was pretty good.
posted by mark7570 at 8:53 PM on December 6, 2005

Lone Wolf and Cub. You could get #1 and #2 for $20. It's fantastic, and would also go over well with students in class.
posted by precipice at 8:55 PM on December 6, 2005

"Seven Samurai," which he probably already knows.
posted by scarabic at 8:59 PM on December 6, 2005

i have only seen the first few movies in the series, but zatoichi, the blind swordsman are excellent, particularly #1. make sure you get the old ones from the 60s, not the crappy remake of 2003.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 9:02 PM on December 6, 2005

The samurai film - Yojimbo - but he already has it.
Hidden fortress (the inspiration for star wars).
posted by filmgeek at 9:41 PM on December 6, 2005

I may be tripped up by the wording of the question, but I'll go way out on a limb: Samurai Champloo?
posted by Loser at 11:02 PM on December 6, 2005

Manga and anime hadn't occured to me. What interesting ideas. I know he likes video games too--is there such a thing as a samurai videogame that runs on Panther/G3??
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 11:25 PM on December 6, 2005

I was gonna say Samurai Champloo, too. Great writing and animation, and quite funny, too. Very tounge-in-cheek humor--they're hiphop samurai, if you can wrap that around your head.

But of course, Seven Samurai takes the cake. Some people loved Ghost Dog, but I found it to be a real bore.
posted by zardoz at 2:56 AM on December 7, 2005

There's also the DVD box set of the Lone Wolf and Cub movie series (kind of expensive). Or, you could get the american mashup of the first two films, called Shogun Assassin. Lady Snowblood is also a good choice.

My suggestions contain a fair amount of gore, and might not appeal to people who don't find arterial spray an important story element. (If so, I second Zatoichi or any Kurosawa samurai flick.)
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 4:37 AM on December 7, 2005

There's also Daimajin, which is actually a kaiju film but involves samurai (and Daimajin himself is a giant samurai). My favorite kaiju, so I thought I would mention it.
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 4:41 AM on December 7, 2005

Dude... Azumi is the queen of middle school samurai girls. If he's into gore and humor, the same director made a flick called Versus, which is spectacular.
posted by ph00dz at 5:32 AM on December 7, 2005

Is he already familiar with Samurai Jack? It's really excellent animation, and if he knows his samurai films, it'll be all the more enjoyable for him.
posted by Dr. Wu at 6:04 AM on December 7, 2005

This is a crazy coincidence, but I just now found this - 3" Akira Kurosawa trading figures. At 6 bucks each, whatta bargain!
posted by sluggo at 6:27 AM on December 7, 2005

get him one of these:
tasogare seibei (twilight samurai, 2002)
kakushi-ken: oni no tsume (the hidden blade, 2004)

and zaotichi 2003 is not crappy, what do you gain from that lie?
posted by suni at 6:55 AM on December 7, 2005

now i feel like watching it : )
posted by suni at 6:55 AM on December 7, 2005

Also good is Mibu gishiden ("When the last sword is drawn"). This and Tasogare Seibei (mentionned above) are samurai movies with some emphasis on drama. Really quite good, and most people who've seen the Kurosawa movies (7 samurai, yojimbo, sanjuro, hidden fortress, rashomon) might not have heard about those two, as they're not as mainstream.

On the anime side, I just noticed that Samurai 7 actually has Kurosawa on as a writer. That might get me to watch it. I've heard it is basically a retelling of the story, but set in a world with mechas and so on.
posted by splice at 7:12 AM on December 7, 2005

This documentary about Kurosawa was very good.

Also, even if he's seen all the Samurai movies, doesn't mean we wouldn't like to own them right? Here's the Kurosawa Samurai Criterion gift set -- the commentary on the Seven Samurai is TERRIFIC.
posted by Heminator at 7:42 AM on December 7, 2005

You can also move him into Hong Kong sword movies with The Swordsman II: The Invincible Asia. Several directors, including Tsui Hark and Wong Kar Wai worked on it, and it stars Bridgette Lin and Jet Li. Totally camp but unforgetable. There's also the Japanese gangster movie Tokyo Drifter, which deserves a much wider audience (totally fucking psychedelic mod).
posted by klangklangston at 8:21 AM on December 7, 2005

How about Ghost Dog and a copy of Hagakure?
posted by Hlewagast at 8:35 AM on December 7, 2005

He's probably seen every Kurosawa film suggested. The Blind Swordsmen, too(though the one where he carves a bullet out of his own arm with his sword-WHILE BLIND-it the most awesome thing I have ever seen. I heart Shintaro Katsu forever). Hlewagast's suggestion is awesome. A good cheap(10-12 dollars) gift would be the paperback of Rashomon by Ryunosuke Akutagawa; two stories in it, In A Grove and Rashomon were mashed up to provide the script to Kurosawa's Rashomon, and the rest of the stories are also pretty awesome. My boyfriend got me Chushingura one year, it's the classic tale of the Loyal 47 Retainers, Toshiro Mifune(greatest samurai actor of all time, pretty non-arguably) is in it, he might not have seen it, and it's also one of the few old school samurai movies I've seen that's filmed in color-getting to see the costumes in color for the first time is totally jizz-worthy. Oh, and then there's my favorite samurai movie of all time, also not extremely well-known: Samurai Rebellion. It's directed by Kobayashi, it stars Toshiro Mifune, and it's fucking incredible. Oh lord, I'm getting all misty-eyed thinking about the ending right now.
Sorry, I got kind of excited about this question. I love old school samurai movies.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:06 AM on December 7, 2005

If he's seen all the classics how about Samurai Fiction? It's relatively new (1998) and funky supercool. Hey, maybe he'll enjoy the references to a lot of old samurai films too
posted by pantsrobot at 12:08 PM on December 7, 2005

and zaotichi 2003 is not crappy, what do you gain from that lie?

i saw it after having seen many of the originals and thought it was a paltry dumbed-down imitation. ichi went from being a charismatic, complex and entertaining character to a rather two-dimensional and dull ass-kicker of the type seen in so many movies these days.

the best thing about the original zatoichi was his humanity and vulnerability which made him appealing both to myself and to the people (especially, the women) he met in his journeys. takeshi's 2003 zatoichi was supposed to come off as (the clich'd) dark-and-mysterious-swordsman, but to me it was largely empty and soulless.

that and the animated blood effects, which were apparently intentionally made to look like flowers, were overwrought and ridiculous enough to distract me back to reality, which never makes for good cinema.

however, to each their own. opinions are like.. well, you know what they're like.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 3:41 PM on December 7, 2005

oh, one other thought -- surely he's seen kurosawa's more popular films, but you might consider getting him either the magnificent seven*, a fistful of dollars** or last man standing**, both of which take the storyline from the seven samurai* and yojimbo** and recast them in a western setting. i (and, presumably, others) got into sergio leone's spaghetti westerns this way and found that leone's and kurosawa's films have a lot in common. your friend might like them too.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 3:50 PM on December 7, 2005

sarge: my a-hole opinion is that you don't like dancing ; )

2 (probably too obvious) classics:
sword of doom (1966)
seppuku (harakiri, 1962)

a nice samurai era anime would be rurouni kenshin (us title was "samurai x")
golden childhood favorite: shogun (tv mini 1980)
i second when the last sword is drawn, samurai fiction, samurai rebellion..
posted by suni at 6:29 PM on December 7, 2005

Thanks, everyone, you've given a shopping list that will last for years!
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:46 AM on December 8, 2005

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