The very nature of film allows you to tell a story that is either factual and true or fantastical and purely fiction. Many films blur the line between both of these. When this happens, as an observer we are normal aware of what is real and what is not. The film maker does not purposely try to outsmart us, we simply allow ourselves the fiction. This is the phrase suspension of disbelief. Now, the problem that occurs is that there are some film makers that for whatever reason do try to outsmart us, or try to basically sell us a bill of goods that we don’t need, or want. They do this for many reasons; money is the biggest. They believe if they dazzle us with flashy special effects that we will be satisfied to give up our money. Or if they feed us mindless drivel dressed up as dialog, that we will be too dumb to notice. This concept is what drove me to make this list of paired movies. The first in each par is an honest movie, straightforward and possibly even a bit historically correct. The second in each pair is the opposite. It is either at best, a comedy satirizing the first movie, or worse an embarrassing attempt at creating a story. The comparison is interesting and sometimes humorous.
HYSTERICAL: The Last Samurai
Director: Jerry London
Writers: Eric Bercovici
Novel: James Clavell
Stars: Richard Chamberlain, Toshirô Mifune, Yôko Shimada
This film was first a TV mini-series based on the novel by James Clavell about an English navigator who becomes shipwrecked on the island country of Japan during the feudal time of the Samurai. As his stay there lengthens he learns their ways and earns their respect, but also becomes embroiled in their politics. It is a well written, well filmed story paying due respect to the ancient warrior class..
The Last Samurai (2003 )
Director: Edward Zwick
Writers: John Logan, John Logan
Stars: Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Billy Connolly
In the same general idea, an American Army Captain becomes a military advisor to the Emperor in Japan, who is trying to disassemble the Samurai class and end the feudal system once and for all. He is captured by the Samurai and while being held captive he embraces the Samurai culture and in the end joins their rebellion. In the case of this film the plot is forced and the Captains assimilation into the Samurai culture contrived to the point of being insulting. Tom Cruise is awful, but even putting that aside the plot is so full of holes it seems humorous, like, for instance Cruise’s character being able to learn the way of the Samurai sword enough in one winter to beat men who have trained their whole lives.