A superior warm-weather entertainment, this dark 2001 Japanese blockbuster is based on the legend of Abe-no-Seimei (921-1005), a powerful seer, magician, and master of yin-yang arts who advised the imperial family during the Heian period and has since been the subject of puppet shows, Kabuki theater, novels, and a million-selling manga comic book. Mansai Nomura, in his first screen role since Kurosawa's Ran, plays Seimei as a puckish but powerful figure: in one hair-raising sequence he exorcises the emperor's infant child, who's hideously possessed by spirits sent by a rebel magician (Hiroyuki Sanada of Ringu). Seimei's loving friendship with Hiromasa (Hideaki Ito), a good-hearted swordsman serving the emperor, registers strongly among all the demonic digital effects—the new X-Men movie can't compete with this. Yojiro Takita directed; in Japanese with subtitles. 116 min.
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