After a mainstream comedy it's time for a rough gem, but this one just ruffles you up a bit too much.
Enter the world of misery with Amakusa Shirō Tokisada or The Rebel in its western nickname, directed by Nagisa Ôshima, shot by Shintarô Kawasaki and starring Hashizô Ôkawa as the titular Shirō Tokisada, the Samurai of God not of the missionaries living and comforting his christian brethren about the completely miserable serfdom under the anti-christian Tokugawa Shogunate.
The film, considered under the Chanbara genre, moves more around the pure era drama than arm chopping ventures and while that might seem obvious due to the peaceful nature of our man here, things get really awry in the development of the peasants' mood as the laws, taxes and special treatment by the Shogun's men start to ramp up. The miserable conditions aggravate further for the protag as he is forced to take immediate action due to the people not hearing his patience pleads and secret plans to siege the region's castle to stop the lord's antics and the farmers mess time and time and time again, further fueled by men breaking and talking under massive torture schemes by the honorable samurai in the castle and ronin trying to get a piece of the action; One of the most only satisfactory moments, narratively speaking, is when Shorou finally calls out the men for harshly acting before time only to be ditched out by the serfs in fearful realization of their impending doom
In terms of style and cinematography the movie starts as a calm piece with very strong use of shadows in backlit scenarios and slow shifting ensemble shots, but sooner or later goes into man on man exchanges, big textured battles in the night and reaches a climax with Ôshima, by now in his 7th film in 3 years, picking a very interesting dynamic of focusing subjects in empty, void backgrounds (either black for night or white for an overblown overcast day) sharing ideas or extreme feelings directly to the camera.
A little pet peeve for me was the extended periods of the movie in which we can hear a dramatic, subdued but constant score of strings reminding us of the dread, but i felt this effect went on and on, endlessly and rarely changing tone, that ended giving us a monotonous suffering feel that might've been the point, especially with such an extremely cutthroat text at the end of the piece that just spices the poignantry or secret predicament rejoice of our hero's actions, which honestly could already be felt and heard since the events started to unravel an hour before.
Nagisa was sort of a transgressor due to the topics picked and the unapologetic portrayal of those, in this case the squashing of the Christians in Japan by the Samurai class, at this point venerated in cinema, and the believers' internal in-fighting regarding the interpretation of God's word and his actions (sort of a schism between clearcut catholic subjugation, last-stand orthodox self-defense and missionaries shooting cannonballs at christians from a Lord's castle) although i will defend old Nag any day due to him actually managing to make entertainment out of it, even if sometimes a little campy.
A decent era piece from a seasoned master, who slowed down after this release to do even more kink-incisive topics, although i think perhaps a viewing should be considered only for the subject's uniqueness in the genre and/or to review the director's work.