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Forget Tom Cruise, the Last Samurai was french

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Forget Tom Cruise, the Last Samurai was french

Old 02-27-04, 04:21 PM
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Forget Tom Cruise, the Last Samurai was french

For history buff:

http://www.adetocqueville.com/sa40226b.htm


TOKYO, Feb 24 (AFP) - The way Hollywood tells it, "The Last Samurai" as portrayed by Tom Cruise was an American mercenary. But the real-life contender for the role was a French artillery officer whose exploits were every bit a match for Hollywood's fiction.
Many commentators have pointed out similarities between Nathan Algren, Cruise's character in Edward Zwick's film and the story of Captain Jules Brunet.
Brunet was sent to Japan as part of a French mission helping to modernize the army of the Tokugawa shogunate, or hereditary military dictatorship, at the time of the 1868 Meiji Restoration of the emperor's primacy.
Like Algren, Brunet fought the emperor's troops against the background of civil war, betrayal and changes of allegiance.
And, also like him, he would emerge, safe and sound from the bloody last stand of his samurai "cadets" and brothers-in-arms whose raison d'etre was doomed by the very modernisation he represented.
But perhaps, even stranger than the Hollywood fiction, Brunet helped found the short-lived 'Ezo Republic' on Japan's northern Hokkaido island, the last redoubt of the die-hard supporters of the former Shogun Yoshinobu Tokugawa.
Little-known in France and not much more so in Japan, Brunet, who was born in 1838, was a product of the elite Ecole Polytechnique, a fine soldier and a talented artist.
According to a contemporary description, he was "intelligent, distinguished, alert, gifted when it comes to sketching, and a man of the world."
Photographs and engravings show a tall, slender man with big moustache and a touch of arrogance in his look.
Before being sent to Japan in 1867 as part of France's first military mission after the long-closed country started to open to the rest of the world, Brunet had been part of an ill-fated expeditionary force in Mexico.
The mission was responsible for setting up and training seven infantry regiments, one cavalry battalion and four artillery regiments for the Shogun's army, a total of 10,000 men.
British and American officers were meanwhile working with "the party which is hostile to French interests," as Brunet was later to put it in a letter -- in other words the forces of Emperor Meiji.
When the defeated Shogun ceded power to the emperor in late 1867, the French mission had to leave Japan.
But some members of the mission stayed behind with their "cadets", to organise the resistance of the "Bakugun" army -- the last samurais loyal to Tokugawa.
Listed as a deserter, Brunet wrote to France's Napoleon III that he had decided to "serve the cause of France in this country or die in the process."
But starting with the breaking up of its flotilla in a storm in late 1868, the ex-Shogun's forces suffered one setback after another.
Brunet reached the port of Hakodate on Ezo, as Hokkaido was then known, with Admiral Takeaki Enomoto and a handful of other French officers, where Enomoto was elected president of the "independant Republic of Ezo."
The new state lasted for a mere six months although it was accorded de facto recognition by the western powers. Brunet was responsible for organising its fortifications.
The samurais' resistance was finally smashed in the spring of 1869.
The imperial infantry landed at Hakodate which had come under heavy naval bombardment and routed the last rebel formations. Holed up in the fortress of Goryokaku which Brunet had modified, the 800 survivors surrendered on June 30.
Somewhat ingloriously, before the final surrender, Brunet fled and sought refuge on a French ship anchored in Hakodate port.
He was taken to Yokohama, arrested by the French authorities and returned to France via Saigon. He stood trial in a court martial, but received a light sentence and was forced to leave the army at the end of 1869.
His career recovered and a swiftly rehabilitated Brunet was already back in uniform in 1870 and taken prisoner by the Prussians. Almost 30 years after returning from Japan, he ended his career as a general and chief of staff.
"Japanese historians know him; they know that there were French at Hakodate and that France supported the last Shogun," said Christian Polak, a French businessman who has spent 30 years in Japan and researched Brunet's adventures here in the course of writing a book on Franco-Japanese relations.
Old 02-27-04, 04:29 PM
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IBTBC

Here's the only know surviving photo of Jules Brunet:

Old 02-27-04, 04:31 PM
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he would emerge, safe and sound from the bloody last stand of his samurai "cadets" and brothers-in-arms whose raison d'etre was doomed by the very modernisation he represented.
So he surrendered... yup, sounds french to me!
Old 02-27-04, 06:49 PM
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Originally posted by Groucho
IBTBC

Here's the only know surviving photo of Jules Brunet:

Old 02-28-04, 01:49 PM
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Am I right to assume there are major movie spoilers in the article and comments above?
Old 02-28-04, 02:52 PM
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Groucho! Don't be dissin' Kikaider!

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