Wireless Fu

Salt Lake City Weekly | September 24, 2004
Don’t make the mistake of assuming this is another adventure full of clashing swords and wire-fu; if anything, it’s a romantic parlor drama. Its titular hero Seibei Iguchi (Hiroyuki Sanada), far from being a great warrior, is a widowed low-level clan retainer—basically a warehouse accountant—stumbling through life in debt and in need of a bath. When he defeats the oafish, drunken ex-husband of his best friend’s sister Tomoe (Rie Miyazawa) in a battle of honor, his reputation suddenly changes—-as does his chance for happiness with Tomoe. There’s an awkward, unconventional rhythm to Yoji Yamada’s film, the narrative never quite heading in the most obvious direction. Notions of Japan’s changing social landscape swirl throughout—-even the film’s title is a nod to the end of an era—-but it works mostly as a character study of the iconoclastic Seibei, for whom honor and loyalty are far less important than being left quietly alone. When a sword battle finally does break out, it’s a lunging and not particularly graceful affair that’s more gripping in its moments of repose—-a fitting summation of the film itself.

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