Dora-Heita


1h 50m 2000

Brief Synopsis

Based on Shoguro Yamamoto's book "Diary of a Town Magistrate," about a samurai who poses as a drunken play-boy in order to weed out corruption in a small province.

Film Details

Also Known As
Dora Hieita
Release Date
2000
Location
Japan

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m

Synopsis

Based on Shoguro Yamamoto's book "Diary of a Town Magistrate," about a samurai who poses as a drunken play-boy in order to weed out corruption in a small province.

Film Details

Also Known As
Dora Hieita
Release Date
2000
Location
Japan

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m

Articles

Dora-Heita - DORA-HEITA - A Samurai Adventure Conceived by Four Legendary Japanese Directors


Dora-heita (2000) boasts as impressive a lineage as any samurai film. Back in the early 1970s four directors decided to collaborate on adapting a novel by the popular author Shugoro Yamamoto (Dodes'ka-den and Sanjuro both came from his work). The project soon fell victim to tempestous financial problems but was never entirely forgotten. Why should it, considering that the four directors and co-writers were Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), Masaki Kobayashi (Samurai Rebellion), Keisuke Kinoshita (Ballad of Narayama) and Kon Ichikawa (Fires on the Plain)? By the turn of the millennium only Ichikawa was still alive from this directorial super-group so when the chips finally fell into place he ended up helming this slyly comic take on a familiar samurai world.

The story in fact could have come from dozens of Westerns just as well as anything Japanese. Soon after the film opens we meet "Dora-heita," a somewhat dismissive nickname (more or less means "alley cat") for a samurai who has just entered town as a new magistrate. To the dismay of the other magistrates ruling the fief, Dora-heita has permission from their ruling Lord to clean up a near-by town that boasts an impressive array of vice and depravity. Oddly enough, it's apparently ignored by the magistrates who claim nothing can be done about it. Only problem for the clean-up goal is that Dora-heita himself is a drunken, gambling womanizer who perpetually ignores magistrate rules in favor of perpetual carousing. He also soon has a figure from his past in hot pursuit for more twists. Most viewers can't help but be reminded of Kurosawa's Yojimbo at the least, especially as the story grows more complicated.

Dora-heita's vision of samurai films decidedly leans more towards subtlety than slapstick. Even the few swordfights are brief and almost after-thoughts though that's appropriate to Dora-heita's lax manner. A recurring gag is the local scribes who chronicle every day's events but consistently report only that Dora-heita has not appeared in his office. Not a knee-slapping joke certainly but it does play on the confusion generated by Dora-heita, as well as underlining a broader theme of how many important events never make the history books. Much of the humor is character-driven, at its best when showing Dora-heita's possibly inebriated battle of wits with those who would cheat him and at its worst with stereotypical women shrews whose sole purpose seems to be to nag.

While the film covers familiar territory and runs at least half an hour longer than it should, it benefits greatly from Ichikawa's painterly eye. His framings tend to be balanced though not symmetrical and he seemingly can't help paying as much attention to light pouring through a house's dust or the village's morning mist as he does to the people in the film. It's an oddly sedate approach to a story about hidden power politics and human weaknesses but if nothing else at least keeps the film from feeling tossed off. Perhaps the style is another reason for no slapstick: Ichikawa is far too restrained for the violence of unleashed comedy and his few attempts aren't entirely convincing.

AnimEigo's DVD is as clear as you'd expect from such a recent film and is letterboxed at 1.85. One nice touch is the use of different color subtitles for different speakers and occasional explanatory notes that appear at the top of the screen. Without such notes most of us wouldn't know, for example, why one samurai asks another about his feet; it's not a fetish but a traditional Japanese belief that ghosts don't have feet. This subtitle technique has been around for a few years but never used as much as it could be. The disc also includes a small selection of trailers for similar films.

For more information about Dora-Heita, visit AnimEigo. To order Dora-Heita, go to TCM Shopping.

by Lang Thompson
Dora-Heita - Dora-Heita - A Samurai Adventure Conceived By Four Legendary Japanese Directors

Dora-Heita - DORA-HEITA - A Samurai Adventure Conceived by Four Legendary Japanese Directors

Dora-heita (2000) boasts as impressive a lineage as any samurai film. Back in the early 1970s four directors decided to collaborate on adapting a novel by the popular author Shugoro Yamamoto (Dodes'ka-den and Sanjuro both came from his work). The project soon fell victim to tempestous financial problems but was never entirely forgotten. Why should it, considering that the four directors and co-writers were Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai), Masaki Kobayashi (Samurai Rebellion), Keisuke Kinoshita (Ballad of Narayama) and Kon Ichikawa (Fires on the Plain)? By the turn of the millennium only Ichikawa was still alive from this directorial super-group so when the chips finally fell into place he ended up helming this slyly comic take on a familiar samurai world. The story in fact could have come from dozens of Westerns just as well as anything Japanese. Soon after the film opens we meet "Dora-heita," a somewhat dismissive nickname (more or less means "alley cat") for a samurai who has just entered town as a new magistrate. To the dismay of the other magistrates ruling the fief, Dora-heita has permission from their ruling Lord to clean up a near-by town that boasts an impressive array of vice and depravity. Oddly enough, it's apparently ignored by the magistrates who claim nothing can be done about it. Only problem for the clean-up goal is that Dora-heita himself is a drunken, gambling womanizer who perpetually ignores magistrate rules in favor of perpetual carousing. He also soon has a figure from his past in hot pursuit for more twists. Most viewers can't help but be reminded of Kurosawa's Yojimbo at the least, especially as the story grows more complicated. Dora-heita's vision of samurai films decidedly leans more towards subtlety than slapstick. Even the few swordfights are brief and almost after-thoughts though that's appropriate to Dora-heita's lax manner. A recurring gag is the local scribes who chronicle every day's events but consistently report only that Dora-heita has not appeared in his office. Not a knee-slapping joke certainly but it does play on the confusion generated by Dora-heita, as well as underlining a broader theme of how many important events never make the history books. Much of the humor is character-driven, at its best when showing Dora-heita's possibly inebriated battle of wits with those who would cheat him and at its worst with stereotypical women shrews whose sole purpose seems to be to nag. While the film covers familiar territory and runs at least half an hour longer than it should, it benefits greatly from Ichikawa's painterly eye. His framings tend to be balanced though not symmetrical and he seemingly can't help paying as much attention to light pouring through a house's dust or the village's morning mist as he does to the people in the film. It's an oddly sedate approach to a story about hidden power politics and human weaknesses but if nothing else at least keeps the film from feeling tossed off. Perhaps the style is another reason for no slapstick: Ichikawa is far too restrained for the violence of unleashed comedy and his few attempts aren't entirely convincing. AnimEigo's DVD is as clear as you'd expect from such a recent film and is letterboxed at 1.85. One nice touch is the use of different color subtitles for different speakers and occasional explanatory notes that appear at the top of the screen. Without such notes most of us wouldn't know, for example, why one samurai asks another about his feet; it's not a fetish but a traditional Japanese belief that ghosts don't have feet. This subtitle technique has been around for a few years but never used as much as it could be. The disc also includes a small selection of trailers for similar films. For more information about Dora-Heita, visit AnimEigo. To order Dora-Heita, go to TCM Shopping. by Lang Thompson

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 2000

Released in United States 2001

Released in United States February 2000

Released in United States November 2000

Released in United States on Video April 10, 2007

Shown at Berlin International Film Festival February 9-20, 2000.

Shown at London Film Festival (World Cinema) November 1-16, 2000.

Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival April 19 - May 3, 2001.

Shown at Seattle International Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema) May 24 - June 17, 2001.

Shown at the European Film Market, February 9-20, 2000.

Shown at Vancouver International Film Festival September 22 - October 5, 2000.

Began shooting February 15, 1999.

Japanese directors Akira Kurosawa and Keisuke Kinosjita both died in 1998.

The screenplay for "Dora Heita" was written Akira Kurosawa, Keisuke Kinosjita, and Konkan Ichikawa in 1969 and was intended to be co-directed but was not produced due to the commercial failure of Kurusawa's "Dodes'ka-den" which was made in a similar fashion.

Released in United States 2000 (Shown at Vancouver International Film Festival September 22 - October 5, 2000.)

Released in United States 2001 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival April 19 - May 3, 2001.)

Released in United States 2001 (Shown at Seattle International Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema) May 24 - June 17, 2001.)

Released in United States February 2000 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival February 9-20, 2000.)

Released in United States February 2000 (Shown at the European Film Market, February 9-20, 2000.)

Released in United States on Video April 10, 2007

Released in United States November 2000 (Shown at London Film Festival (World Cinema) November 1-16, 2000.)