A Tale of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story – Movie Review by Frank L.
Director: Yûzô Asahara
Writers: Yûzô Asahara (screenplay), Michio Kashiwada (screenplay)
Stars: Aya Ueto, Kengo Kôra, Kimiko Yo
This tale of food and love is set sometime during the two and half centuries known as the Edo period in Japan, which was at least one hundred and fifty years ago. It is a highly structured society, steeped in tradition, which forms the back drop to this love story. Haru (Aya Ueto), is a young woman who is blessed with the skill of being an exceptional cook. She is a culinary genius. Her skills are noticed by Dennai Funaki, whose family have for generations been chefs to the samurai warriors. He is old but his son, Yasunobu (Kengo Kora) and heir, does not wish to be a chef and follow in the family tradition; he craves to be a samurai warrior. However a marriage is arranged between the two and the unlikely love story starts to take shape through the medium of Haru’s culinary skills.
What is striking throughout the film are the societal certainties against which the story unfolds. Each person has a place within the society and knows his place. Therefore Yasunobu’s lack of culinary talent is a source of great pain and suffering for his family. He is not following the path which has been decreed by birth that he should follow. Given the formality which surrounds eating, it is understandable that this lack of enthusiasm causes such pain to his father. What is not so satisfactory is the various political intrigues which take place and are not that easy to follow. It is difficult to understand how they assist the main story. The formality of so much of the action, which in a more informal society would make the story of Haru and Yasunobu unexceptional, in this exotic world of elaborate conventions makes their story a wonder. The other ingredient which assists are the delicious sequences of the preparation of the food. Haru makes a filleting knife an object of great beauty as she slices delicately fish and vegetables.
Samurai in western minds is associated with warriors, swords and fighting. Here those elements are in the background as the chefs are centre stage and it makes for a delicious, mostly savoury series of dishes but with a love story to add some nectar.
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