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Poster for Kenji Misumi’s Sword Trilogy: Ken (1964) 4K Restoration
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Kenji Misumi’s Sword Trilogy: Ken (1964) 4K Restoration

Dates with showtimes for Kenji Misumi's Sword Trilogy: Ken (1964) 4K Restoration
  • Sat, Jul 27

Director: Kenji Misumi Run Time: 95 min. Rating: NR Release Year: 1964

Starring: Akio Hasegawa, Akitake Kôno, Raizō Ichikawa, Yukiko Fuji, Yūsuke Kawazu

Country: Japan
Language: Japanese

The second installment of Kenji Misumi’s brilliant Sword Trilogy. See the 4K Restorations of all three films—Kiru (1962)Ken (1964), and Kenki (1965)—one weekend only at the Film Center.

About the film:

The only film among Kenji Misumi’s seventy-plus titles to feature a contemporary setting, Ken (1964) explores the conflict between ancient traditions and modern values in a Japanese society torn from its roots. Led by the impeccably moral, intimidatingly driven head apprentice Kokubu, a training camp for young swordsmen is compromised by the jealousy of third-stringer Kagawa, who plans to undermine Kokubu and his charges with sensual temptations.

Writer Kazuro Funabashi adapted the story from a work by the controversial Yukio Mishima, supreme chronicler of the agony and ecstasy of ascetic discipline, with Misumi employing tense black-and-white widescreen compositions to render a dojo a veritable hothouse of rivalry and self-repression. One of Misumi’s darkest efforts, Ken (1964) is a psychological examination of erotic sublimation and corruption in the guise of a martial arts film.

About the filmmaker:

A prolific director of Japanese period films (jidai-geki), Kenji Misumi was a genre filmmaker who stamped his own style and personality on all of his commercial material. He has been salutedas an “unconscious auteur,” and Hiroaki Yoshida’s book on the Misumi’s career bears the subtitle “Secret Innovation,” highlighting his quiet subversion of genre conventions.

With a recommendation from Kan Kikuchi, the wartime president of Daiei Motion Picture Company, Misumi entered the film industry through an apprenticeship at the Japanese film production company Nikkatsu. With the outbreak of WWII, however, Misumi was enlisted and ended up a Soviet prisoner in Siberia. He did not return to Japan until 1948, when he resumed his filmmaking career as assistant director to filmmakers like Kozaburo Yoshimura, Daisuke Ito, and Teinosuke Kinugasa.

Misumi made some of his most internationally famous films relatively late in his career—notably, the flamboyantly violent Lone Wolf and Cub series based on the manga by Kazuo Koike. Misumi directed dozens of films throughout his career, but his most celebrated films belong to his Sword Trilogy. The trilogy, comprised of the films Kiru (1962)Ken (1964), and Kenki (1965), brought a thrilling vitality to the familiar genre of Japanese Samurai films.

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