I've come to the point in my fascination with cinema where I tend to gravitate toward the stranger, more peculiar end of the spectrum, as opposed to simply consuming anything and everything that comes my way. I guess this sort of thing happens when your free time is increasingly sucked away by life, work, and the other stuff that pops up over the course of the day. And although writer/director Till Kleinert's 2014 horror/action/drama/mind-fuck Der Samurai seems like something tailor-made to scratch my unstoppable, unrelenting cinematic itch for odd movies, for one reason or another, I'd always passed it up when I had a chance to give it a go. Thankfully, I finally came to my senses and dropped this fantastic German flick directly into my collection. Not only is it one of the most refreshing movies I've watched this year, it's also earned itself a spot as one of those movies I'll feverishly recommend to the few friends I still have. If you're one of those unfortunate individuals, I apologize in advance.
Here's the story in a nutshell: Jakob (Michel Diercks), a young cop in a small German town, employs a unique strategy to prevent a lone wolf from emerging from the woods and wreaking havoc: He fills the surrounding woods with giblets he picks up from the local butcher shop. Although he's a pretty nice guy, Jakob doesn't get much respect from others around town, including his boss and the local gang of bikers who seem on the cusp of causing some major trouble. However, everything changes when our hero receives a mysterious package addressed to the town's resident lone wolf. After receiving a mysterious phone call, Jakob encounters a mysterious crossdresser who swears he's the proud owner of the parcel that contains a long, sharp katana. Thus begins an evening that involves Jakob, the enigmatic samurai, a fair amount of bloodshed, and some unexpected full-frontal male nudity.
The back of the Artsploitation Blu-ray claims that Der Samurai has a lot in common with the early works of David Lynch, but I think this bold statement ultimately sells the film short. Kleinert and his extremely talented cast have created something a bit more coherent and approachable than anything Lynch has created over the years -- and this is coming from a full-blown, die-hard Lynch fanatic. And while I can see some shades of Blue Velvet throughout this unique cinematic experience, I think it has more in common with The Hitcher than anything else. The titular samurai has a lot in common with the antagonist from Robert Harmon's 1986 classic, although I'd say that Pit Bukowski rocks a dress better than Rutger Hauer any day of the week. The film's slow and steady pacing, mixed with some homoerotic undertones and the lack of a clear, definitive explanation, will no doubt make those who hate arthouse horror roll their eyes until their ocular cavities collapse. But those of us who crave something off-the-cuff and altogether different from the genre should have nothing to complain about.