I just finished watching Hideo Gosha's masterpiece Onimasa for the second time in six months and I was simply blown away as much as I was when I first saw it. I've seen over 500 Japanese films and this is easily on my top five 5. I never understood the Japanese title which basically said "The Life Of Hanako". Onimasa and Matsue are the main characters of the film and Hanako is more of a secondary character. SPOILERS!!!! This is where the SPOILERS are located so don't read if you don't want to know anything. Basically the film is about Onimasa, a Yakuza boss with Samurai ethics and the film is told through the eyes of Matsue his adoptive daughter. We see their lives transpire and we watch the relationship the two of the them have. From the initial confusion, to Onimasa not wanting to give Matsue to any man, we see their bond as father/daughter build. The film main theme centers around these two characters, but there is of course a conflict. Onimasa eventually has a daughter with one of his many women and they name her Hanako. As the film continues we see that Hanako is more of an embarrassment to Onimasa, but he still loves her all the same. Hanako betrays Onimasa by joining Suenaga (the arch rival) and pretty much everyone around Onimasa dies because of it. Her betrayal leads Onimasa to jail, where he dies a shattered man with a broken spirit. All of this is observed by Matsue who at heart is the real daughter of Onimasa. End Of SPOILERS! Tatsuya Nakadai presents one of his best performances as Onimasa in this film. I have seen around 30 of his works and he is in top form in this film. Only in Harakiri and The Human Condition Trilogy does he excel even more. Onimasa is a Yakuza boss with noble intentions, but every so often we are reminded that even though he may have a good heart he still is a Yakuza boss. Hideo Gosha is a masterful director who made many great films in his career and I believe Onimasa is one of his most subtle. Don't expect much violence in this film until the end as this in not your usual Yakuza flick. This is more of a character piece, but it's two and half hour runtime blows right by you. If you like Japanese films, check it out. If you like Tatsuya Nakadai, check it out. If you simply like the medium of film check it out. You won't be disappointed.
A yakuza melodrama, covering decades in the lives of Boss Onimasa, his adopted daughter Matsue, and his biological daughter Hanako.
August 5, 2020