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The great Hiroshi Teshigahara (Woman in the Dunes) returned to the screen with this exquisitely designed historical drama about a famed sixteenth-century tea master who enters a clash of wills with an ambitious warlord.
From the director of Woman in the Dunes and The Face of Another (both screening in this season's Japanese Divas programme), Rikyu is an exquisite portrait of the last years of the eponymous sixteenth-century tea master (veteran actor Rentaro Mikuni). A Buddhist priest who concentrates on the beauty of a single flower or gesture, Rikyu enters a clash of wills with his master, the ambitious warlord Hideyoshi (Tsutomu Yamazaki), who prefers conquest to creativity. A master of ikebana (flower arranging) himself, Teshigahara expertly details the spiritual qualities of the tea ceremony — its fastidious rituals an aesthetic fusion of art, architecture, painting, poetry and pottery — and contrasts them with the brute realm of power and politics which the tea master must also participate in as counsellor and confessor to his hard-drinking, wealth-obsessed master. "A deeply reflective experience, Rikyu is also one of the most beautiful films you will ever see . . . For serious film lovers the long-awaited return of Hiroshi Teshigahara could not be more welcome" (Kevin Thomas, The Los Angeles Times).