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The Last Samurai, Historically Accurate?

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The Last Samurai, Historically Accurate?

The film I chose to review was The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. The film was released in 2003 and is categorized as Action, Adventure, and Drama. It is 154 minutes in length. As I watched the film, I was entertained and I really enjoyed it. The basic plot is that an American Civil War Veteran is working for the Emperor of Japan to teach peasants how to use firearms. The more I watched the more I wondered about its historical accuracy. I did some research and found some disappointing reports.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/12/1202_031202_lastsamurai.html
http://www.willamette.edu/~rloftus/LastSamurai.htm
The reports indicate that the movie is not historically accurate. Some reports indicate that the French were called to train the peasants. So why did I chose this movie? Well, I want to use a few clips that are accurate and teach my students about the Bushido, Samurai, and their fighting techniques. I want to do a compare and contrast activity with the chivalry of Knights of Medieval Europe. We can then discuss how modern warfare has affected both societies.
edited by igonzalez on 5/25/2013

clay dube
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Message from Clay Dube

Please take a moment to look at other reviews of this film in the Film Festival forum. You may be interested, as well, in this LA Times discussion from 2003. Fred Notehelfer, one of the experts interviewed for the story, has been a frequent speaker in our teacher-centered seminars.

http://articles.latimes.com/2003/dec/10/entertainment/et-munoz10

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Message from lstribling

This quotation from the article Clay posted I found very interesting:
"But they may be shortchanging an increasingly sophisticated American moviegoing audience by continuing to tell stories about other cultures through the eyes of white, disillusioned heroes." All to often we are only allowed to look into a culture from the point of view of the hollywood star. We are short changing the cultures the movies are trying supposed to be shorting. Although we have come along a bit since the casting of a white actress (instead of the great Anna May Wong), in the Good Earth, we still have a long way to go

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Message from sthroop

This was one of my favorite movies in college and I was sad to find out that it is historically inaccurate as well. I have never, however, had a problem with showing inaccurate movies in my classroom. I usually pair it with an activity where the students have to study the movie material and point out the historical inaccuracies. In the case of the 2001 Pearl Harbor Movie, I have even used it as part of a test for the students to see if they can recognize inaccuracies after studying material in my class.

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Message from

Not all films have to be totally historically accurate. In fact, maybe that is not even possible. in general, unless you are dealing with major historical figures, the movie-makers are more interested in giving the feel of the time rather than detailing every aspect of it.

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The film I chose to review was The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise.
http://www.releasedl.com/2014/02/the-list-builders-academy-2/

The film was released in 2003 and is categorized as Action, Adventure, and Drama. It is 154 minutes in length. As I watched the film, I was entertained and I really enjoyed it.

http://www.releasedl.com/2014/01/optimized-local-website-builder-2/

http://www.releasedl.com/2014/01/online-fan-page-designer/
The basic plot is that an American Civil War Veteran is working for the Emperor of Japan to teach peasants how to use firearms. The more I watched the more I wondered about its historical accuracy. I did some research and found some disappointing reports.
http://www.releasedl.com/2014/01/easy-paycheck-formula-2/
The reports indicate that the movie is not historically accurate. Some reports indicate that the French were called to train the peasants. So why did I chose this movie? Well, I want to use a few clips that are accurate and teach my students about the Bushido, Samurai, and their fighting techniques.
http://www.releasedl.com/2014/01/psycho-profits/

I want to do a compare and contrast activity with the chivalry of Knights of Medieval Europe. We can then discuss how modern warfare has affected both societies.

http://www.releasedl.com/2014/03/traffic-jeet-2-0-6-in-1-suite/

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Message from jcazares

The Last Samurai, although not historically accurate, does have some merit in history and can be utilized in the classroom. Even though it may not be factually inaccurate, it is a good example for illustrating the change from a closed, agricultural society to the industrial, imperialistic nation. I would not show the entire film, but there are parts that can be used to help compare and contrast several concepts: feudalism in Japan and Europe, bushido and chivalry, industrialization and modernization. It definitely attempts to show the Samurai class in a romantic and heroic light that are trying to preserve the honor and purity of old Japan. This class was part of the elite class of landowners trying to preserve their rights and status in the changing nation after the Meiji Restoration. It is similar to the English lords rising up in 1215 and forcing King John to sign the Magna Carta.

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Message from zrichardson

The Last Samurai Film offers a visual perspective for a wide range of informed viewers. However, historically and culturally inaccurate the film may appear, at the very least it puts some overarching concepts about a bygone era of Japanese feudal system. Generally speaking if the film’s objective was historical fidelity, then the actors and plot will have a different configuration and more depth. For example, the Samurai warriors are depicted in a “romanticized” holywoodize style, when according to early blank & white film aesthetics directed by Japanese film directors the cultural nuances and historical realities go unvarnished. The film and its intended audience no doubt determine the fidelity of historical events. Historically speaking plenty of civilizations will rather forget the transgressions they have inflicted/subjected each other in the name of politics and religion or a higher power.

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Message from ebonilla

Zwick, Edward. The Last Samurai. 2003
As a movie created to entertain the masses it does its job fairly well. The Last Samurai depicts a culture becoming extinct a way of life diminishing as well as the struggle of a man trying to maintain a semblance of humanity. Although films created for entertainment are not made with the intent of being historically accurate they do have a kernel of truth. Japans samurai’s did revolt and there were many struggles and battles were men lost their lives. This fact is evident on film and we can see the determination of this once great culture trying to achieve its goal of protecting the emperor. It also shows the levels of greed that always accompanies men of power.
According to New York Times – Film Fare The Last Samurai was not very well received. It was thought to be a film that only shows emotions at the major battles. As a teacher it would be very difficult for me to show this movie in class not only because its inaccurate but because the point of history is to discuss the events in human life and let students come up with “so what”. Students have to analyze events and think critically on the outcomes, which is what they will do in their scholastic careers.
edited by ebonilla on 4/21/2015