The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi - Movie ReviewsteemCreated with Sketch.

in #movies3 years ago

When I stumbled across The Blind Swordswman: Zatoichi, I was unfamiliar with the character or history. Luckily, I came across an incredible review of this film which filled me in on the history of this cultural icon. Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano) stands out in a crowd. The traveling masseuse has a shock of yellow hair. His bright red cane hides a sword that has an uncanny ability to always find its mark. Zatoichi doesn't ask for much. His uncanny hearing ability allows him to consistently win at the gambling tables, so he is always able to provide for himself. But his winning also draws attention. After getting run off from one town, he wanders into another at the same times as a pair of geisha who are bent on revenge. Their paths cross causing Zatoichi to stand up for his newfound friends. Or maybe, Zatoichi is on his own quest for blood...

Takeshi Kitano is a Japanese "renaissance man." He writes, directs and acts. He is also a poet, a painter, a comedian and a former video game designer. Is there anything this guy can't do? That is the question I ask myself. Kitano writes a brilliant screenplay based on a Japanese icon. Taking on any film hero presents unique challenges that can set a writer up for failure. Being unfamiliar with the icon, I cannot address the issue from a purist perspective. But I can say that, as a cinematic endeavor, Kitano's Zatoichi worked well for me.

While Kitano did not create Zatoichi, his incarnation appealed to me. The character was subtle, yet had an unmistakable flair. A mild-mannered hero that quietly goes about his business until challenged. Yet there are many layers to the character that are intriguing (and sometimes stretch the imagination). The plot is exceptional in the way it draws different elements together and doesn't waste dialogue or character interactions. Every element appeared to be carefully placed to queue the audience in without giving away the plot twists until the timing was right. The ebb and flow of the plot never felt manipulative, relying on clockwork timing and dual story lines to pull everything off.

Kitano's video game background is evident in the fight scenes. They are nicely choreographed with CGI elements added to create an almost surreal level of violence. Gore in films is something that is not all that appealing to me. Yet, when done right (and in context) can add dimension to a story. In this instance, Kitano uses the CGI to add the right dose of gore without going overboard. The violence was a significant factor in the film earning an R rating. Run time is one hour, 56 minutes.

When I read that Kitano was a comedian, it made a light go off in my head. Zatoichi had some offbeat humor written into the script that added to the surreal flavor of the film. One interesting sidebar in the film involved farmers working in a field. They engage in various agricultural endeavors during the film, choreographed to keep time with the musical score. Simple elements like this added an interesting flavor to the film that made me chuckle. I think my enjoyment was in the sheer subtlety of the scenes. There was another character that ran randomly around the film that appeared to be an attempt at humor...but only managed to get under my skin.

Zatoichi was an entertaining film that had plenty of good qualities. The fights scenes were nicely choreographed with CGI gore that added a surreal touch. The plot introduced interesting characters without wasted dialogue or interactions. This allowed the plot to engage in some interesting twists without feeling contrived. There were some interesting elements of humor, although some fell flat. Overall, the film appealed to me and is worth recommending. 7.5/10.

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I am a simple man: I see swords, I press like.

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I remember seeing this film on the big screen. It must have been in the early 2000s at the Rotterdam Film Festival. Just checked the date and it must have been February 2004, almost 15 years ago. I believe that - at that time - I had already seen two or three films directed by Takeshi Kitano. This one became my favorite, so far.

I clearly remember the choreography of the farmer's work to create a soundtrack and agree that most of Kitano's films have a certain kind of humour to them. Which does the trick, at times. No matter what, it's certainly some kind of trademark of his. It must be the nature of the beast.

You also reminded me of a Zatoichi trilogy that I watched in 2009. That year, I was living in an apartment in Madrid for a couple of months. One of my roommates was a filmmaker and cinephile, like me. He showed me these three Samourai films from the 1960s. I tried to look them up, just now, but I find about a dozen of Zatoichi's from the 1960s so I can't pinpoint the exact titles.

No matter what, they were worth watching and I'm sure they inspired Kitano's take on this story.

Thanks for the feedback. I think I looked up and watched one of the older ones as well, around the time I watched this version. An interesting character to build a film around.

Cool and I agree, it's definitely an interesting character :>)

Just curious, how much have you seen of Japanese cinema and what did you like, so far?

I don't watch a lot of Japanese cinema. I have seen more Korean. Old Boy is probably my favorite. I recently reviewed the Japanese film "Departures" which was an excellent film. For horror, "The Ring" was certainly memorable.

I see. I have seen way more Japanese cinema than Korean ( mainly due to anime ) but the last decade or so I am probably watching more Korean live action films than Japanese.

Talking about the Ring, are you referring to the original Ringu? That one was pretty creepy indeed. So were The 4 original Ju-On The Grudge and Ju-On: The Curse movies, from the early 2000s.

Now I come to think of it, I have probably seen more Japanese than Korean films, as I was into horror for quite a while. Loads of Asian horror movies seem to be made in Japan.

Most (South) Korean films I enjoyed, were of different genres. Take for instance the work of Kim Ki Duk. I've seen over a handful of his films on The Rotterdam Film Festival.

A very recent Korean film I found worth watching is Burning. Have you heard of it?

P.S. The Old Boy trilogy is definitely worth seeing too :>)

Seen ringu and the ju-on films. Missed burning which was in limited release here. Went away too quick. Castaway on the moon is an interesting Korean film I would recommend. The old boy trilogy was great. Although I didn’t love thirst (noynpart of the trilogy)