The American directors George Lucas (Star Wars) and Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now) were that excited by Akira Kurosawa's work that they financially helped him to make the history epos Kagemusha. Kurosawa only managed to produce a new movie each year after his success with 'The seven Samurai'. Because of less financial success with Kagemusha this state was not about to change and he received only one time a bigger budget for the movie RAN. He died in 1998.
Kagemusha can be considered as a highlight in Kurosawa’s oeuvre and, different to other historic movies, it focuses the war preparation and the results instead of huge battles. This happens with precision and patience. Often with to much patience for a western audience which led to a shortening of the movie.
Different to RAN, which was developed 5 years later, Kagemusha is without any doubt Kurosawa's hardest to understand movie and not recommend for beginners in this field. The shortened version makes it much easier to follow and watch this epic movie but the question remains: Is that a goal to achive?
However, those who obtain the perfectly made DVD by Criterion and have an eye for the details in Tatsuya Nakadai’s precise acting of the prince and his double will not be able to stand the hypnotic effect of this masterpiece which shows a final full of tragic and elegy.
Compared is the international version, shown in German TV at broadcaster ARTE, with the Japanese original on the Criterion DVD. The international version equals the old US Version and has also been released in many other countries like the UK and France.
There are totally 18 minutes and 40 seconds missing in a total of 42 differences. The international version also shows a different intro which differs in time for additional 25,5 seconds.
The ARTE version shows an intro text after the Kagemusha title:
“In the 16th century Japan was a country struggled by power play. The territorial princes armed they troops to invade the capital city of Kioto. The three mightiest of these princes were Shingen from the house of Takeda, Nobunaga from the house of Oda and Ieyasu from the house of Tokugawa. In 1572 Shingen starts marching on Kioto. After the armies of his rivals were beaten he now sieges Ieyasu’s fortress.
The soldier is running through the hold a bit longer.
Extended take of the rooms which is passed by the messenger.
The general adds: "Indeed. We breach their outer and inner perimeters, and they calmly hole up in the keep."
Masakage Yamagato gets off from his horse and passes the yard to Shingen. A minion announces his arrival.
When Ieyasu is noticed by a messenger that Shingen is wounded and might be dead is frist to be seen at 15:28 after Nobunaga is noticed. It is missing how the generals analyse the situation and mention to tell it to their allied Nobunaga. Ieyasu is convinced he already knows.
Nobunaga angrily rides around the place after he heard from Shingen’s death.
A monk is noticed about Shingen’s death.
View on the resting place.
Shingen repeats that his son and his generals should not leave home for war: „Do not move!“.
At the end of Shingen’s speech he can be seen longer.
Masakage Yamagato rides with Shingen over a hill. The doctor advises a pause to prevent his condition gets worse.
Masakage Yamagato watches the doctor in an angry and astonished way.
The soldiers keep on riding.
Only the ARTE version shows the sunset.
When one of the spies observes Takeda’s soldiers, there are scenes in which a sole soldier rides around and the spy can not be seen. It is missing how the spy runs through the wood and the end of the march. Additionally the Criterion version shows this scene in one take while the ARTE version has an obvious cut.
The march is longer after the spies passed by.
The double passes the men longer.
A take has been edited and something from the middle has been cut (in this case how the double deconstructs the pottery vessel).
The double kneels longer.
The scene in which the sign can be seen above the sake bowel is shown in a close-up in the ARTE version. The Criterion version shows the upcoming take a bit longer.
no time difference
The spies sit down at the tree.
As expected a huge part of the NO theatre is missing. Before a few seconds of the spies are missing.
As before the real Shingen at 20:07 the copied sitting of the double at the end has been shortened.
At the end of Katsuyori Takeda scene at castle Suwa, ARTE lacks a scene in which the other man gets up, watches out of the window and sees the messenger at the beach.
At the meeting the minions prepare candles.
After the double left the meeting the Criterion version lacks another scene with Nobukado and the angry Katsuyori.
Dafür fehlt in der Arte Fassung, wie Tatsuyori und seine Leute wütend davon reiten und die ersten 3 Sekunden der kleinen Versammlung danach.
Nobukado says at the end of the meeting something about the double: "And all because ... one brief meeting with the late lord won his heart and he was saddened by his death. You have to feel sorry for him."
In the dream sequence Shingen stands around a bit longer after he freed himself from the pottery vessel.
The scene in which Shingen moves towards the double can be seen in the ARTE version at 93:51.
Shingen continues walking towards the double who retreats in fear.
Because of a scene repetition the following is missing in the Criterion version.
The ARTE version offers an additional take in which the double retreats.
Because of the scene shift no order can be made fort he Criterion version because it is an alternative scene which does not fit into the Criterion version.
The double strays around longer through the dreamscape before kneeling down. The short jump cut sequenz before he goes to the river has been ordered differently as well.
He strays around longer.
He walks longer through the river.
After Nobunaga welcomed to portuguese priest the following dialogue is missing.
Nobunaga: "I didn`t know the priests were still here."
Minion: "They return to Sakai today."
Nobunaga: "Wait, one of them was a man of medicine. Send him to pay Shingen a sympathy visit."
Minion: "A visit from an enemy camp might be difficult."
Nobunaga: "Idiot. You think I don`t know that? Use Nobutora. The geezer`s at loose ends in Kyoto since his own son Shingen banished him. They can`t turn away a mesenger from him. He has servants who know Shingen well. With one of them along, we can learn the truth.
The priest, sent by Nobunaga, appears at the court of Shingen. Nobukado and his generals are not pleased but have to welcome him because he was sent by Shingen’s father. They believe the enemy is the reason of his visit but still hope lose their doubts about Shingen’s death when they can see the double.
The double welcomes the priest while Shingen’s horse jumps around. Shingen’s father’s minion gets cheeky and asks questions about the past. Nobukado is still able to block all attempts of the exposure of the double.
During the meeting of Nobunaga and Ieyasu one can see the priest and the minion who visited Shingen and reported to Nobunaga that Shingen is well.
The three generals, who represent ‘fire’, ‘wind’ and ‘wood’, observe the palisades.
The scenes after the battle have unordered takes
Horses try to get up and wounded soldiers stray over the battlefield.
More wounded horses and dead soldiers.
The credits are shorter in the ARTE version.