Surprisingly nihilistic samurai film following the brief life of Hachiro Kiyokawa, a blade for hire, in a time of political upheaval in 19th Century Japan. The film charts the descent of honourable samurai to mercenary rōnin and assassins, for sale to the highest bidder.
Kiyokawa shifts between both factions - the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Emperor - to further his own ends. He embodies an amoral, mercenary attitude to life - mediating peace in the face of civil war only to realize his own ambitions of power.
Beautifully shot in black and white CinemaScope with a haunting, atmospheric score. Worth checking.
Dir. Masahiro Shinoda, 1964