Dir: Kazuaki Kiriya. Japan. 2009. 128mins
The epic Japanese effects film Goemon (or The Legend Of Goemon as it was screened as at certain film festivals) is finally receiving a limited theatrical platform prior to an early life on DVD, and this wildly ambitious film will intrigue and interest fans of both classic Japanese cinema and of anime films.
Goemon is a visual treat on the big screen.
Created by Kazuaki Kiriya (who made the equally epic post-apocalyptic 2004 fantasy Casshern), the film blends period action adventure with a pop sensibility, all largely created using green screen and computer graphics. To a degree its lush style and manga-driven action has been overtaken by the effects developments utilised in films such as Avatar, but it is a fascinating and beautifully rendered film despite ultimately falling under the weight of its own ambitions.
Kiriya began filming Goemon in 2007, and spent close to three years making the film. It is set in 1582, tracing the adventures of chivalrous thief Goemon (Yosuke Eguchi), a folk hero to the poor who ends up accidentally stealing a box with a hidden panel. Within this Pandora’s Box is a document that is sought by Japan’s most powerful and deadly warlords.
The storyline is complex – featuring rival warlords, battling ninjas, love affairs and political intrigues – and hard to follow at times, but the sheer visual style that Kiriya (a former Japanese fashion photographer and music video director) brings to bear is astonishing at times. At times the action veers too close to comic book effects, but the story is told on an epic scale; many of the fight scenes are impressive and the performances range from the subtle through to the gloriously over-the-top.
Though Goemon’s life outside Japan will undoubtedly be mainly as a cult DVD title, fans of his work could well also seek this quirky film out during its brief theatrical life – it is a visual treat on the big screen, despite its kitsch qualities.
Production companies: Goemon Partners, Kinoshota Management, Kiriya Pictures, Oz Company
International sales: Shochiku, www.shochiku.com
Producers: Kazuaki Kiriya, Takashige Ichise
Associate producers: Yoshiya Nagasawa, Yuji Ueda
Screenplay: Kazuaki Kiriya, Tetsuro Takita
Cinematography: Kasuaki Kiriya
Editors: Kazuaki Kiriya, Chisako Yokoyama
Production designer: Yuji Hayashida
Music: Akihiko Matsumoto
Main cast: Yosuke Eguchi, Takao Osawa, Jun Kaname, Tetsuji Tamayama, Sasumu Terajima, Mikijiro Hira, Masato Ibu