Uzumasa Limelight / 太秦ライムライト / Uzumasa Raimuraito (2014)
Director: Ken Ochiai
Screenplay: Hiroyuki Ono
Cast: Seizo Fukumoto, Chihiro Yamamoto, Hiroki Matsukata, Masashi Goda, Hirotaro Honda, Hisako Manda
Note: This film will screen on July 26.
Uzumasa studios used to be called the Hollywood of Japan due to the many samurai shows that were filmed there. The film starts with the sudden cancellation of a 40 year running samurai show as the new and young producer wants to create something more modern for younger audiences and with younger actors in mind. That means an end to the glory days for veterans like the protagonist, Kamiyama who’s pushing 70. He was never the hero but an extra who had a talent for dying in creative and dramatic ways. However, not all young people are disinterested in the old traditions and one young aspiring actress, Satsuki, asks Kamiyama to train her in sword fighting and acting in the old art form.
The film gives an inside look into the production of the TV shows and pokes fun at the studio’s desire for younger actors and more modern dramas. Even when the producer decides to do a historical drama again, swords with only a handle and a short green part to be replaced with a CGI blade are used. This is in contrast to the parts that show the production the older TV series which is portrayed with loving nostalgia and respect.
There’s some good acting and great character interactions. It’s all leisurely paced and allowed to developed nicely. Perhaps the story could’ve been more interesting if Kamiyama’s declining health had more consequences but the film chooses to give one well deserved last hurrah for these old performers. Although not essential viewing for everyone, it will likely resonate a lot with fans of the old Samurai shows.