Love and Honor is a most unusual film.
I’ve always enjoyed sword films of all sorts from classic Japanese samurai films such as Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai to even such genre busters such as Chinese Ghost Story (the only movie I know that features both swordplay, vampires and a tongue as big as a house) but I do treasure most the fairly traditional variety.
Love and Honor is both traditional and not. The story is of a low level samurai who serves as a taste tester for the local lord. He happens to eat shellfish out of season and ends up blind. Naturally this happens just before he was going to resign and open a fencing school for children.
His wife who is absolutely loyal and will stand by him whether he is sighted or blind, rich or poor, ends up sleeping with a local bigwig in the hopes that this will restore her husband’s stipend so they will not be destitute. He of course finds out and swears revenge but as a blind man this is not so easy.
What makes this film so different is that though the hierarchical structures so familiar from this period in Japanese history are evident, the people remain human and quite expressive within those strictures. The distancing you so often see in these kinds of film is absent and this is incredibly refreshing. There is little doubt that the couple love each other, that they care for the old man who does chores around the place; no doubt that the doctor is sad about the loss of the vision. There is humour throughout and a lightness of touch that indicates that these people are living lives quite authentic despite the constraints of their time.
This one is worth seeing.