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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reading Eric Packer Through Takeshi Miike's 13 Assassins

13 Assassins is a wonder to behold. Incredible violence, yes. But not meaningless as in action movies from Hollywood. And not the relentless violence permeating our everyday lives as totalitarian techniques crush us.

Shinraemon is the last master Samurai in the Edo period of medieval Japan. The film takes place in 1844. At the same theater Meek's Cutoff was also playing and that too took place in 1844. Interesting. Shinraemon has been summoned to assassinate Lord Aritsugo who will be the next Shogun. Aritsugo's atrocities have been more atrocious than atrocious, the usual violence usually overlooked and excused. Aritsugo is more violent, more sadistic, more perverse, more evil, an excressence of such evil that he must be killed (imploded) before attaining power and plunging Japan into endless war.

Shinraemon is full of joy that he has been chosen by fate to answer this calling to die as a true Samurai should die.  He is the last master Samurai as the Samurai warriors are dying off or being absorbed into mediocrity. He has outlived his world. He is to die and disappear with his world. That he has been elected to do so brings him great joy.

When he died he would not end. The world would end. (Eric Packer C 6)

12 assassins are recruited and they tell their stories. A final mountain man joins them making 13. He is Koyata who presages the new enlightened messenger, the Zen master.

The assassins pledge their life to Shinraemon, their death belongs to him now. He says he will use their lives wisely. Their will, their destiny now belongs to Shinraemon. It has been transferred to their master. All die except Shinraemon's nephew, whom he tells to now go his way and do what he wills. The life of the Samurai is at an end.

The Samurai have paid a warlord ruler of a great clan, whose daughter-in-law was ravished and killed and his son murdered by Aritsugo. The bridge is closed and Aritsugo crosses to meet with the humiliated father who is still alive only to have borne witness to the atrocity. Aritsugo's protectors advise him not to cross but he does, saying:

Aritsugo:Watch and learn.

Eric Packer sees Elise outside the theater with a cigarette in her hand. He gets out of the limo. He forced open the door and walked across the street and Torval was at his side, ably containing his rage.

Torval: I need to know where you're going.
Eric: Wait and learn. (C 116)

Everyone has been killed and now Shinraemon and Aritsugo meet. Shinraemon slays Aritsugo himself. First he ridicules Aritsugo's decorative sword and Aritsugo plunges it into the body of Shinraemon, who then mortally wounded by his own choice, then plunges his own sword into Aritsugo and kills him. He chooses his death and chooses his disappearance now that his world is at an end. 23 years later the shogunate rule will end.

This film expresses the beauty of ritual and ceremony. Of lethal ritualistic violence.

And again:

If man must reach the outermost bounds of his possibilities, then he must also go so far as to destroy himself. For that possibility is neither the least, nor the least glorious. - Saul Bellow (Baudrillard - The Intelligence of Evil Or The Lucidity Pact, Berg, p.115)

Dying its nothing. You have to know how to disappear. (Baudrillard - Cool Memories 1980-85 p. 12)

One way of dying is to make your death alter the state of things in such a way that you no longer have any reason to be a part of it. Thus death can have the effect of a prophetic disappearance. Such were the deaths of Barthes and Lacan. I believe the world has taken another direction since, in which these subtle figures would no longer have any meaning. The death of Sartre, by contrast, left the world unchanged and seems an ineluctable, but insignificant event. Before dying, he was already to live in a world that was no longer his own. (Baudrillard - Cool Memories 1980-85 p. 114)

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