For the first time in Japanese cinema history, an American-made film is being remade and released in Japan with director Lee Sang-il's Japanese-language film, Yurusarezarumono, inspired by Clint Eastwood's, Unforgiven.
The Japanese film shifts the setting to Japan and stars some of Japan's most acclaimed actors, led by Ken Watanabe as Jubei Kamata, reinterpreting the role played by Clint Eastwood in the original, with Akira Emoto taking on the part played by Morgan Freeman, and Koichi Sato reprising Gene Hackman’s part.
Yurusarezarumono is set in Hokkaido around 1880, the start of the Meiji period following the collapse of the Edo shogunate, at a time when the Japanese government is attempting to open the land (then named Ezo) populated by the indigenous Ainu people.
In the shogunate’s waning days, Jubei Kamata (Watanabe), a former swordsman of the shogunate, slaughters countless rebels under orders, earning a fearsome reputation in Kyoto. Following the government’s collapse, he takes part in a succession of bloody battles culminating in the decisive battle at Goryokaku, then vanishes without a trace, eluding the determined efforts of the new government to capture him.
More than a decade later, Jubei lives on in desolate isolation as a frugal rancher with an Ainu woman as his wife and their children. However, his wife—who alone transformed a man whose only reason for existence was to kill—dies, leaving him to guard over her grave with their children in sparse austerity.
However, the man who vowed never to take sword again finds himself driven by poverty to once again join battle as a bounty hunter…
Together with a former comrade, he faces those convinced in their own justice. Another cycle of violence starts anew in another new era.
Men tossed in the wake of turbulent history stage their final battle in the immense natural environments of Hokkaido with exhilarating horseback action. The film’s scale will emulate the immensity of American westerns.
Clint Eastwood commented, “It's an honor to know that Lee Sang-il and my good friend Ken Watanabe, with whom I worked closely on Letters from Iwo Jima, will be teaming on a Japanese rendition of Unforgiven.”
Director Lee Sang-il said, “It has been 20 years since the release of Unforgiven. People wander between “good” and “evil,” no matter who you are—this is the theme, which lies within this film and it speaks deeply to us even today, still unable to end the vicious cycle of violence. It is my belief to create films that people can relate to—people who carry doubts and redemption, striving to be right, rather than people who insist he is right without any doubts. The original film is acclaimed to be the masterpiece of western films. I am thrilled, happy, and overwhelmed with pleasure to be given this opportunity, as director Clint Eastwood, whom I highly respect, is a filmmaker with an unprecedented talent. Ken Watanabe, a man with definite presence, that makes one think there is no one but him. Akira Enomoto, a man I'd like to call an old ally. Koichi Sato, a man who I had always wanted to work with for a long time. I strongly wish to create a film that will always be remembered, together with the help of the passion of above members and other wonderful cast and filmmakers.”
Ken Watanabe stated, “To me, director Clint Eastwood is like my father in the film industry and it will be challenging for me to remake one of his best known films. Together with director Lee, we'd like to build our Unforgiven in our own way in this vast land of Hokkaido.”
Filming is set to commence in mid-September on location in Hokkaido. Yurusarezarumono is targeted for nationwide release in Japan in the fall of 2013.
Image Courtesy: Flickr