The limitations of the one take have consistently been tested to it’s very limits in the last decade or so. Especially after the critical smash that was Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, contemporary filmmakers have been attempting to use the one take technique to either enhance realism or create a surreal way of passage for the viewer. Films such as Victoria, 1917, and Utøya: July 22 have all in some regard influenced the landscape of the famed technique for better or for worse. For the first time ever however, we finally have a film that is dedicated to one specific utilization of the one take technique: to demonstrate an elongated 77 minute action sequence adapted from a real-life event. This film is the low-budget Japanese venture Crazy Samurai Musashi, directed by known stunt-coordinator Yuji Shimomura.
In the opening few minutes, the film commences just like your traditional samurai drama. The audience has a basic understanding of the geography of the location, and the key players involved in the opening conflict. Written by acclaimed Japanese genre filmmaker Sion Sono, the dialogue is sparse in revealing information. It sometimes narrowly dodges casual exposition, but Sono gives enough background detail for the viewer to properly comprehend the massive set piece to come. Inspired by the miscellaneous legendary adventures of Japan’s most notable swordsman Miyamoto Musashi, what follows is an uninterrupted action sequence that lasts a little over an hour.
Sounds epic, right? Well unfortunately, not everything is as grandiose as it seems. Largely in part with the film’s low budget, the film almost plays like an hour-long game play of a live-action Wii Sports Resort swordplay showdown. The outdoor scenery is frequently refreshing, and the village set design perfectly matches the architecture of structures found in the depicted early Edo-era. Disappointingly enough, this where my praise largely ends. The technology to shoot the action set pieces appears as though it was shot on a low quality iPhone camera. The lack of blood on the spotless swords and corpses ruins the long take, as the accompanied out of sync sound effects become overbearing. The process of the long take is quite cheesy to say the least, where extras are constantly reused. When an extra gets stabbed, impaled, or even nearly decapitated, you can literally see them leap, jump, limp, or even sometimes fall out of frame in order to be reused in another segment later on.
A bonafide larping reenactment, Crazy Samurai Musashi is a fun throwback to samurai-film cliches and stupidly large action set-pieces. Ultimately, it’s the thought that counts. The amount of effort and training needed to construct a long take of this magnitude is certainly impressive, especially with the exact timing of the climax with the sunset. What is essentially just one long vapid first act, Crazy Samurai Musashi is an impressive although certainly amateur attempt at the long-take feature. Virtually exhausting after thirty mere minutes, you’re better off just watching Takashi Miike’s cinematic bloodbath Blade of the Immortal. I guarantee you’ll have a much more rousing time with that flick!
Crazy Samurai Musashi screened digitally at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival and is currently seeking North American Distribution