The Theater & the Samuraï.
Chanbara (チャンバラ), also commonly spelled « chambara« , meaning « sword fighting » movies, denotes the Japanese genre called samurai cinema in English, and is roughly equivalent to western cowboy and swashbuckler films. Chanbara is a sub-category of jidaigeki, which equates to period drama. Jidaigeki may refer to a story set in an historical period, though not necessarily dealing with a samurai character or depicting swordplay.
While earlier samurai period pieces were more dramatic rather than action-based, samurai movies post World War II have become more action-based, with darker and more violent characters. Post war samurai epics tended to portray psychologically or physically scarred warriors. Akira Kurosawa stylized and exaggerated death and violence in samurai epics. His samurai, and many others portrayed in film, were solitary figures, more often concerned with concealing their martial abilities, rather than showing them off.
Historically, the genre is usually set during the Tokugawa era (1600–1868). The samurai film hence often focuses on the end of an entire way of life for the samurai: many of the films deal with masterless ronin, or samurai dealing with changes to their status resulting from a changing society.
Samurai films were constantly made into the early 1970s, but by then, overexposure on television, the aging of the big stars of the genre, and the continued decline of the mainstream Japanese film industry put a halt to most of the production of this genre.
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