In Japan, Uzumasa is considered the Hollywood of their film industry. With many ‘jidaigeki’ (sword fighting dramas) films made over the years, there are characters within them known as ‘kirareyaku’ – actors who get killed by the film’s lead. Seizō Fukumoto is one such kirareyaku, who has been slain (to his estimates) over 50,000 times on screen.
In Uzumasa Limelight, which takes inspiration from Fukumoto’s real life, he plays a veteran kirareyaku, Seiichi Kamiyama, who is coming toward the end of his career. The long running Samurai drama he has starred in alongside close friend (and heroic lead of the series, Seijyuro Onoe (Hiroki Mstsukata), has been cancelled in favour of a new, hip Samurai show starring a pretty-boy popstar. Though never in the limelight, Kamiyama is well respected and admired by all those who work with him, no less Onoe himself, who he has a deep long-standing friendship with and, in part, it’s hinted as to why Kami stayed on the show as long as he did. He’s considered an extremely talented actor and he’s humble and proud of his work. As well as the admiration of his colleagues, he’s also admired by some of the younger actors coming up in the studio, and takes one of them, Chihiro Yamamoto (Satsuki Iga), under his wing, to teach her how to stage-fight and die well on screen.
Uzumasa Limelight is a charming, low-key story about one person feeling lost in the world. Though Kami is established, his whole life is thrown into chaos and it leaves him searching for what to do. His old ways are no longer sought after, but when taking an aspiring actress under his wing he finds purpose once more while he continuously struggles to adapt to the changing times of the modern era. With the story blurring the lines between fiction and the real life experiences of lead actor, Seizō Fukumoto, Uzumasa Limelight thrives and manages to capture the attention of the audience, keeping them emotionally invested right until the final moments.
Uzumasa Limelight is a timeless tale of the acting industry chewing up and spitting out seasoned, talented in actors in favour of the younger, better looking (and usually less talented) celebrities for the sole purpose of attracting the younger audience. Uzumasa though, with the added charm and warmth that comes with the film, feels fresh and unique. Kamiyama is a character the audience can wholeheartedly get behind especially with the way the reserved, bashful way Fukamoto comes across onscreen. It’s seldom we see our leads being the ‘the other guy’, the guy nobody pays attention too. Kami (and Fukomoto himself) play a key element in these films, helping elevate the big hero and performing their role with huge charismatic entertainment. With Uzumasa Limelight giving the centre stage to this story, and this character, the results make for an enjoyable and uplifting story.
Uzumasa Limelight is currently available from Third Window Films in the UK