84 year old Sadao Nakajima has been working as a director and writer since the Japanese Studio Era. Love’s Twisting Path is his first movie since 1998. And this is a test as to whether or not he still has ‘it’.
Collaborating with Keiko Tanino, Nakajima offers up a script about the Edo Period. The samurai within the Choshu Domain try to recruit Tajuro Kiyokawa (Kengo Kora). Too bad that Tajuro doesn’t feel motivated by this politics.
Tajuro’s alcoholism doesn’t help him in that regard, although there is one person still on his side. That person is Otoyo (Mikako Tabe), a tavern manager who wants to him in his former glory as a swordsman.
There’s also Tajuro’s younger brother (Ryo Kimura) whose dream it is to see the world. What ensues is a triangle of protection where Otoyo tries to protect Tajuro. He, in turn, tries to get his brother out of trouble.
It’s noble for Nakajima to bring back the samurai film and to incorporate a love story between Tajuro and Otoyo. But that begs the question of whether or not this genre is still relevant. It’s been half a century after its prime.
Nakajima unfortunately doesn’t answer that question. Neither is he able to incorporate the story’s romantic and political elements. Tajuro’s lack of political motivations also make it difficult for audiences to root for him.
The film’s third act is basically a chase and fight scene between Tajuro and Kyoto’s policemen. That should sound exciting, but it’s just mostly the policemen standing all over him, unable to run forward and strike.
They’re afraid because Tajuro is good enough to kill them, which is nonsensical. The chase aspect of these scenes switch from the streets to the surrounding forested areas. That should have added some dynamism but it doesn’t.