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The Last Samurai - Analysis

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by Matt Snyder on 12 February 2013

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Transcript of The Last Samurai - Analysis

Contemporary
Orientalism Romantic Portrayal of Tragic Culture Beginning of film
Appears to reverse theory of Orientalism
East (samurai) is superior to West (modernized Japanese/Americans/Europeans)
Latter half of film
Japanese culture is tragic, primitive, and doomed in the face of modernization Constructing Conversation
in The Last Samurai Gibson Haynes honor, compassion, loyalty and sacrifice
"moment of change from the antique to the modern"- passing of samurai and their way of life
modern- businessmen who were willing to sell their soul for profit Beginning - Reversal of Orientalism Samurai represent East and "true" Japanese culture
sophisticated moral code
value honor and loyalty
highly disciplined in arts and daily life
romanticized portrayal of Japanese people
Westernized Japanese, Europeans, and Americans
greedy, corrupt
desire individual power and wealth Ending - Tragedy and doomed culture Tragic culture
Reminiscent of Marchetti's "tragic couple"
Death of samurai similar to slaughter of Native Americans
Samurai sacrifice produces little actual change
benefits Algren but doesn't stop modernization Film Samples Paired scenes reflect overall film progression
both exhibit East vs West conflict
1st scene - Disrespect for samurai is punished
2nd scene - Dominance of new modernized society Constructed dialogue, inherent agenda
Portrayals of Japanese and English
Language as "normal"
Who speaks for whom?
Language of power, language of intrigue "Normal" Language English as the normal, even in Japan
Eurocentrism
Japanese for the Japanese Who speaks for whom? Lieutenant Bagley speaks for Omura
Omura speaks for the Emperor
Nobutada speaks for Taka
The most western person speaks? Language of Power
Language of Intrigue English - martial, masculine, direct
Japanese - espionage, secrecy, indirect Difficult to use Saïd's view of Orientalism when examining modern film
Samurai are noble; other Japanese characters are influenced by Western imperialism
Algren learns the ways of the village; does not criticize their values Emperor's ninjas attempt to murder Katsumoto, leader of the Samurai
Shows Algren's allegiance towards the village
Algren assimilates and fights for the Samurai village, against the West "What is it about your own people that you hate so much?
Algren is full of guilt from past life
Finds redemption through protecting the Samurai village
Native Americans = Samurai village = victims Analysis America develop Japan through death and destruction
Algren is saving Japan from his own people
No clear-cut "superior" nation
Tradition prevails
the Orient cannot be classified as weak only
White Supremacy
Foreign Import of Modernization
Loss of a cultural Identity
White Guilt
Able to Learn and Master Sword Fight in 6 Months
Last surviving "Samurai" Depicted as Victim
Nightmares
Conscious White Guilt White Supremacy Cost of Modernization Death of Japanese Morals Modern Day Orientalism Themes
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