There is no obvious claim to depth or originality in Kon Ichikawa's 1973 film, The Wanderers (Matatabi). Set in rural Japan in the turbulent years of the early nineteenth century, it draws on many elements of the samurai film. But its total effect is much more: comic, elegant, mordant, heartbreaking, breath-taking. It's easy to appreciate the technical mastery behind the film—an almost flawless sense of timing and imagery. It's less easy to see just how this criss-cross of moods attains such cumulative power….
In a directorial career that spans more than a quarter of a century and some fifty films, Ichikawa has shifted unpredictably between stylization and naturalism and between gravity...
(The entire section is 1380 words.)