27 March 2011

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman (2003)

Culled from http://office-kitano.co.jp/zatoichi/en/cast.html.
Brief Summary (with no spoilers):

Takeshi Kitano's 2003 Zatoichi film is primarily an homage to the super-popular series of Japanese Zatoichi films and TV episodes about "Zatoichi," a blind masseur and swordsman who wanders the land doing good deeds for oppressed people. "Beat" Takeshi not only directs but also stars in the film, which combines martial arts swordplay, classic battles between decent people and ruthless villains (familiar to fans of American Westerns or Asian kung fu or samurai genres), dance, music, and sometimes slapstick humor. 

In Zatoichi, the eponymous, mild-mannered, blind masseur wanders into a small town whose residents are being bled dry (sometimes literally) by rival gangs. In cooperation with a sensible middle-aged woman, her inept but harmless nephew, a brother and sister seeking revenge for the murder of their family, Zatoichi takes on the gangs.

My Comments (contains spoilers, but it's not like the movie is suspenseful—I mean, really!):

Zatoichi is highly entertaining, but I've found that it loses its charm with time and/or multiple viewings. Last night may have been my third or even fourth time seeing the 2003 film, and while I still enjoyed it, I found it kind of limited, I guess. 

As I say in the parentheses above, there's no suspense here. Zatoichi kicks butt, easily, in every encounter. That makes for stress-free escapist fun, but in a kind of cotton candy style: a burst of sweetness with almost no substance. Don't get me wrong: I don't approach a movie like Zatoichi looking for weighty content, profound wisdom, authentic insights into Japanese history and culture, etc., etc. Even so, there's not much meat here. 

But I really enjoyed the movie the first time I saw it, and it's with that in mind that I recommend the film. (But when I revisited the movie's page on IMDb, I lowered my rating from 9 stars [!] to 7.)

I recommend this film, especially if you enjoy samurai or martial arts films but don't take yourself too seriously as a fan of Japanese or Asian film history. This is for fun—nothing more, nothing less. 7 out of 10 stars.

Random Tidbits (spoilers included):

  • The CGI blood added to the fight scenes was endearingly amateur the first time I saw it, but glaringly sloppy the second time I saw it. By this time, it's hard for me to imagine how the production crew of a fairly big-budget film like this allowed the movie to be released with such poor special effects. But, as I remember, this was one of the first movies I saw in which spurting, fountaining blood was added to live-action scenes in post-production, via computer. It reminds me of another movie where the CGI blood left something to be desired: Mongol (as the latter film was released in 2007, the filmmakers have even less excuse for the awkward computer effects). Of course, this is a nit-picky detail, and the blood silliness shouldn't really mar a person's experience of Zatoichi all that much, unless s/he's OCD about that kind of technical lapse.

Next up in "My Movies: A to Z"...Alfred Hitchcock's Young and Innocent.

No comments: