The third of my intended movies for the festival but only the second I saw was A Tale of Samurai Cooking – A True Love Story. It tells the story of Oharu (the gorgeous Aye Ueto), a maid in the Edo residence of the House of Kaga who is a tremendous cook. She is discovered and eventually, reluctantly agrees to marry the son of the head chef of the House (Yasunobu, played by Kengo Kora).
At this stage, it’s looking like a fairly mundane and plodding film. Her task is to inspire and ultimately train Yasunobu in cooking, as due to the death of his older brother, he is now required to give up the sword and become a ‘kitchen samurai’, a step down for him. He naturally resists giving up the sword and joining the family business as even at this late stage of the Tokugawa shogunate, the more administrative samurai were looked down upon by those who continued as warriors.
Throughout the first half of the film, I was trying to decide what sort of movie this was. A love story? Wayward son redemption drama? Feel good schmaltz? It was not until the second half that I realised and it made perfect sense. I will give you the answer at the end.
Just to add some spice to the mix, (see what I did there?), the movie takes a detour into castle intrigue with plots afoot and skulduggery aplenty. Our hero loses a friend and it’s left to Haru-chan to do the right thing.
I won’t spoil the ending for you but I will tell you the type of movie it is:- As with most samurai movies, it’s about duty and honour. I think I went in with different expectations and was disappointed but on reflection overnight and after talking to my Japanese sensei, I realised that the film had a quality about it that lifted it above the usual sword dramas and showed an aspect of samurai culture that I was not previously aware of. And it had a nice love story along the way so what more could we ask for?
An enjoyable film.
7 sashimi knives out of 10