Magobei Wakizaka (Tatsuya Nakadai) isn't so sure about the way of the samurai. He comes late upon the scene and sees innocents butchered, including a woman in her wedding kimono. He protests to Tatewaki (Tetsuro Tanba), a longtime friend and his brother-in-law, who urges him not to report the deed to the bakufu -- the shogunate administration. In return for his silence, Magobei extracts a promise that Tatewaki will never pull such a stunt again. Satisfied, Magobei retires to Edo. Over time, a legend spreads about the ruined village, that it was annihilated by the kamikakushi, a divine curse symbolized by flocks of crows, except for one survivor, a woman who's seen as lucky or accursed, depending on your point of view. She's the first character we meet in Hideo Gosha's colorful thriller, as she returns to her village after a term of indenture in a textile town. She finds the village deserted except for crows. As she searches for her father or any sign of life, the movie gradually goes silent. No music, no dialogue, and finally no sound effects, until Oriha (Ruriko Asaoka) finds a body. It's an eerie moment and typical of the movie's idiosyncratic outbursts of style in the midst of a well-made thriller plot. Later, Gosha transforms crows in mid-flight into ideograms to announce a leap forward in time. Experimental or expressionist or simply indulgent moments like these may reflect the influence of spaghetti westerns on the samurai genre that itself influenced the Italian movies. What goes around comes around.
The man in the hat above is Magobei Wakizaka (Tatsuya Nakadai) and he's about to put on a show.
There's something special about action in winter, whether you're watching a western, a modern crime film or a samurai movie. Goyokin is probably one of the best winter action films ever made, though there's also plenty of rain and muck along the way for contrast. It's one of those rare films that can be appreciated visually as a work of art and enjoyed viscerally for violent thrills. In short, it should have something for everyone, unless you really can't stand subtitles -- and then you might try to find a copy of The Steel Edge of Revenge, a dubbed edition released in the U.S. in the 1970s. If I ask you to go to that trouble, then consider this film highly recommended.
Manos99 has uploaded a subtitled trailer to YouTube. Calling itself "an entertaining samurai film" is really being modest.