Director Ken Ochiai, known for his emotion-infused films, creates another sentimental work evoking from his audience a deep attachment to the central figure. Uzumasa Limelight successfully captures elusive qualities such as humility and honour, drawing its power from the gentle tactics of its characters.
The job of Mr Kamiyama (Seizo Fukumoto) is an interesting narrative motif in itself. He is a kirare yaku, defined as “an extra who specialises in being killed on-screen.” The respect reserved for the art of being killed by a samurai is in a way reflective of the larger themes of character, and achieving glory through respect. Fukumoto delivers an impactful performance that beautifully captures these underlying themes and connects the viewer with the characters on screen.
The samurai drama is endangered by the changing film industry, which continues to push young attractive actors into modern roles that generate fame but sacrifice art. The skill of fighting and, along with it, artfully dying, is being forgotten. Mr Kamiyama, who ultimately is a key figure in the saving of his beloved craft, is anything but active in stopping this change. The largely monotonous scenery mirrors his passivity, with the majority of scenes taking place in the studio or a simple café. Not until after his retirement does a beautiful Japanese landscape appear, and along with it, hope for the continuation of samurai fighting on screen. The gorgeous expanses of endless green fields and rolling hills provide a sharp visual contrast with previous scenes as well as relief from the stress and chaos of the studio. A young woman named Satsuki (Chihiro Yamamoto), mentored by Mr Kamiyama, returns from her fame in Tokyo to work again with the kirare yaku veteran. Yamamoto also plays her role with elegance, showing her diversity as an actress through her character’s transformation from meek student to commanding actress.
In the final scene, Ochiai emplys an interesting tactic by immersing the viewer within the drama, seeing it as it is broadcast rather than conspicuously from behind a camera..
The artful final scenes create a beautiful and satisfying conclusion. Although Uzumasa Limelight is at times slow in its simplicity of characterisation and cinematoragraphy, it compensates with fervent attachment to the characters throughout their development.
Uzumasa Limelight is released in selected cinemas on 9th February 2016.
Watch the trailer for Uzumasa Limelight here: