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The Lady Shogun and her Men

Westerners will find this well-mounted meller something of a drag.

Role reversal may entertain Japanese auds, but Westerners will find well-mounted meller “The Lady Shogun and Her Men” something of a drag. This oft-filmed tale about the intrigues among scheming women in the Shogun’s inner sanctum is turned on its head, reimagining 16th-century Edo (ancient Tokyo) as a place where the male population has been decimated by plague and women are ascendant at all levels of society. Having earned more than $28 million so far, pic has proved a surprise hit in Japan, but offshore interest will be confined to gender-studies academics.

In an Edo that never was, noble samurai Mizuno (Kazunari Ninomiya, “Letters From Iwo Jima”) helps his family’s finances by becoming one of the 3,000 men kept for the pleasure of femme Shogun Yoshimune (Kou Shibasaki). Central conceit creates amusing scenes with fey men and strutting peacocks, while pic openly flirts with homosexuality in a way that commercial Japanese cinema rarely does. However, the scenario is too contrived for drama to take hold. Helming and lensing are as elegant as the costumes worn by samurai hoping to stir the Shogun’s loins, but thesping underwhelms. Tech credits are pro.

The Lady Shogun and her Men

Japan

  • Production: A Shochiku Co. presentation of a Lady Shogun and Her Men Film Partners production. (International sales: Shochiku Co., Tokyo.) Produced by Miyako Araki, Aki Isoyama. Executive producers, Masao Teshima, Kazuya Hamana. Directed by Fuminori Kaneko. Screenplay, Natsuko Takahashi, based on the manga "O-oku: The Inner Chambers."
  • Crew: Camera (color), Tokusho Kikumura; editor, Shigeki Matsuo; music, Takatsugu Muramatsu; production designer, Hidefumi Hanatani; costume designer, Kumiko Ogawa. Reviewed on DVD, Sydney, Nov. 7, 2010. (In Tokyo Film Festival -- market.) Running time: 116 MIN.
  • With: With: Kazunari Ninomiya, Kou Shibasaki, Maki Horikita, Tadayoshi Okura, Aoi Nakamura, Hiroshi Tamaki, Mitsuko Baisho, Muga Takewaki, Emi Wakui, Sadao Abe, Kuranosuke Sasaki.
  • Music By: