“Candyman” director Bernard Rose has helmed a new Japanese film, “Samurai Marathon,” which HanWay Films will introduce to buyers in Berlin. The picture has an original score by Philip Glass and is produced by HanWay’s Jeremy Thomas.
Thomas has a pedigree in Japanese cinema, making films including “13 Assassins” and “Hara-Kiri.” He has again teamed with Toshiaki Nakazawa, who produced the Academy Award-winning “Departures,” on “Samurai Marathon.”
Having an English director on the Japanese-language project is an unusual twist for a samurai movie. Thomas told Variety that Rose gives a subtly adjusted take on the genre but remains true to the form.
“I suggested why don’t we try and make a samurai film with an English director, or one not so entrenched in the tradition of samurai, which is a very traditional form of Japanese cinema,” Thomas said, adding that Rose “was fascinated by the challenge.”
The story follows a young ninja (Takeru Satoh) who is operating undercover in the court of an aging lord during a peaceful era in a feudal Japan on the brink of change. After the lord challenges his lazy samurais to a punishing marathon to toughen them up, the ninja finds his loyalties put to the test.
The film also has a major female protagonist, the lord’s rebellious daughter, Princess Yuki (Nana Komatsu). She escapes the castle to take part in the dangerous marathon.
The film is rooted in real events and set in the 1850s, when the country was beginning to interact with the West. Danny Huston (“Stan & Ollie”) plays Commodore Perry, who was instrumental in that process. The marathon is still run in Japan.
Emi Wada, who was Akira Kurosawa’s designer and won an Academy Award for “Ran,” is the costume designer. The cinematographer is Takuro Ishizaka, who shot “Manhunt” for John Woo. “Samurai Marathon” will be released in Japan this month.