HEAVEN AND EARTH (Haruki Kadokawa, 1990)

An historically-based Japanese battle film portraying the conflict between two warlords, one aiming at peace and the other at power, during the Age of the Warring States, Haruki Kadokawa’s Ten to Chi to is (despite what you may have read elsewhere) visually crude and rudimentary but certainly vigorous. It draws one fairly successfully into a legendary domain, although some of us may question the whole notion of “necessary war,” that is to say, war as a means of achieving peace. There is an action-packed finale, a tremendous battle scene, that ironically resolves little while clarifying as a result competing features of Japanese identity. Shot in Alberta, Canada, with Morley Flats in the twentieth century substituting for the Plains of Kawanakajima in the sixteenth, this may be the only Japanese film to claim the Rocky Mountains as backdrop. It has an amateurish air to it, and neither falling snow nor falling cherry blossoms, depending on the season, are sufficiently lovely and delicate to achieve the poignancy of evanescence, implicitly, human transience, for which Kadokawa aims. More producer than director, Kadokawa lacks the touch of a poet.
     A good deal of sitting around and grunt-talk is periodically interrupted by all hell busting loose. When the latter occurs, there’s an admirable absence of gore. Rather, Kadokawa uses one side’s red armor and banners—the other side is dressed in black—to conjure a powerful impression of bloody violence. Kadokawa, then, has the decency and artistry to capture the spirit of war rather than irrelevant surface details. He hasn’t made a mawkish, sick piece of trash like Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986). Kadokawa doesn’t hide a pathological love of war behind a façade of being against war.
     The version released in the States has Stuart Whitman’s heavy English voiceover.

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