Kamiyama (Fukumoto) is a bit-part actor. He has spent 50 years working for a film studio in Kyoto, playing one of the bad-guy samurai swordsmen who dies in period swordplay movies. Always dies. Over and over again.
He is highly regarded for what he does by everyone in the small studio, but when studio values change, it looks like his acting days are over. He meets a young extra, Iga (Yamamoto), who reminds him of a long-lost lover; when she asks him to train her in swordplay to further her career, he cannot resist.
Seizo Fukumoto – an actor much like his character who is said to have died 50,000 times during his own long career – is spellbinding to watch. Kamiyama is a man of action rather than sentiment, whether in training or weeding his garden. And it’s Fukimoto’s stoical, physical performance that grounds the film and counters the sentimental tendencies of other aspects.
You will be surprised by how affecting and affectionate this film is, in mashing up its samurai movie and satirical elements with simply built, Ozu-like emotional impacts.
Definitely one to watch, Uzumasa Limelight is out on DVD, bluray and VOD from 25 April.
Review by Colin Dibben