Bunraku is as difficult to describe as it is to pronounce. At its heart is a rather simple story of hero-strangers who roll into an oppressed town to start trouble with the oppressors. That familiar plot line is presented as an experimental piece of performance art that keeps you guessing as to whether or not the story will go quite as you’re expecting.
If I had to describe Bunraku’s presentation, I’d have to liken it to a life-size pop-up comic book being read stylishly aloud on a live stage, though with the freedom of motion and effects afforded by the medium of film.
Bunraku’s story seems to merely be a vessel to deliver the style and written nuggets the filmmaker seems much more eager to get off his chest. There isn’t much depth of character beyond the pop-up cutouts immediately evident, but there are those bits of dialog and narration that resonate with some philosophical wisdom you might find in an interpretation of a myth or legend.
Assuming you get used to the style, don’t mind the intentionally shallow story, and don’t feel the need to use the word “pretentious” that the combination of those two things plus a new filmmaker might normally conjure, you won’t find much to hate about Bunraku. You’ll be reasonably entertained by the constant action and colorful motion, and aside from some occasionally imperfect fight choreography, this is a well-made film.