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Uzumasa Limelight

by on October 17, 2014
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Uzumasa int.

Each of us has come to a point sometime in our lives where we question our place within the world we’ve created. And once we reach that point, whether by our own decision or by someone else’s, we must ask ourselves: Where do we go from there?

In “Uzumasa Limelight,” Kami (Seizo Fukumoto) finds himself in just that position as an aged Kirareyaku, which is the name given to the person felled by the samurai’s sword in film and television. Kami isn’t just any ordinary Kirareyaku; he’s the best at what he does. But he’s being slowly pushed out of the genre he helped popularize.

“Uzumasa” is also a case of art imitating life, as Fukumoto is an actual Kirareyaku — acting in nearly six decades of samurai films since age 15. In certain scenes, Fukumoto moves with the fluidity of a man half his age, but in others (in line with his character), he moves with the fumbling skills of a man who’s lost a step or two. Although he’s spent his career in the shadows as a Kirareyaku, Fukumoto doesn’t waste his moment. He’s a man of few words, with profound emotion behind his eyes, and his weathered face reveals more about him than anything he could ever say outright. (You also have to love a man whose signature death move gives him a little more face time on screen before dying.)

After a run-in with a young, egotistic director, Kami is put on probation from appearing in any movies and relegated to becoming a park actor. He begins training a young girl named Satsuki Iga (Chihiro Yamamoto) who, under Kami’s tutelage, quickly rises from extra to stunt double to featured performer. Satsuki tells Kami her dream is to act in a scene with him, and although pride and ego (both personal and within the film industry) conspire against them, “Uzumasa Limelight” finds a graceful way to reconcile its narrative.

From start to beautiful finish, “Uzumasa Limelight” is a profoundly moving piece of cinema that charms and shines the spotlight on one of Japan’s premier Kirareyaku artists.

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