Nearing the village of his sensei, Zatoichi decides to pay the teacher a visit, only to learn that he has been murdered and his daughter forced into prostitution. Ichi's investigation into ...
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Zatoichi tries to unrest the mob rule over a small village all while the gang leader's bodyguard is actually the Yojimbo, secretly taking the gang down from the inside. Will the two heroes realize in time that they are on the same side?
Nearing the village of his sensei, Zatoichi decides to pay the teacher a visit, only to learn that he has been murdered and his daughter forced into prostitution. Ichi's investigation into these injustices uncovers a corrupt alliance between government officials and criminals, putting the blind swordsman on a bloody path of retribution in one of the series' darkest entries. Written by
On the morning of Monday 26 December 1988, in the movie village (eiga-mura) located in the mountains of Kanami, Ryûtarô Gan (age 24) - eldest son of Shintarô Katsu - stabbed Yukio Katô (age 34) in the neck with a katana long sword, while performing in an action scene for this film. Katô was taken unconscious to the Okayama University Hospital (Okayama Daigaku Igakubu Fuzoku-byôin), where he died as a result of massive blood loss from the neck wound. Hiroshima Prefectural Police determined that the incident was one of professional negligence causing death (gyômujô-kashitsu chishi). See more »
If you're not familiar with the Zatoichi series, it's the samurai equivalent of "Godzilla". From the 60's to early 70's, twenty five films were made about a blind swordsman who gives a good massage, gambles like no other, and of course, cuts down lots and lots of bad guys. Unlike the "Godzilla" films (fan as I am of them), the Zatoichi films were typically well plotted, albeit formulaic. They were generally light hearted affairs with little sprinklings of darker subject matter. "Zatoichi in Desperation" was the first time the star took the director's chair, and it was a bleak as hell, psychedelic film unlike any other in the series. With this twenty sixth film, he took the director's chair once again.
Many have commented on the, shall we say, dense plot. Rival gangs fighting over guns, over women, a rebel who becomes Zatoichi's hesitant rival, a group of children, a gambling prostitute- even at near two hours, it's a lot to take in. It's a departure from the other films which were generally very well plotted. The thing though is those films generally paired it down. This has so much going on and the way it all wrapped up seems an after thought.
For me, this isn't enough to sink this film. "Zatoichi in Desperation", the previous directorial effort of the man himself, showed a visual flare and atmosphere completely unique to the series, and he seems to be building on it here. The colors and soundtrack are for the most part, exceptionally well done and do so much for the mood.
That's exactly what this entry is: a mood film. The other Zatoichi films are all about building up bad guys for an eventual catharsis when Zatoichi either strikes down or humiliates them. In this we get the bleakness of "Desperation" mixed in with a tenderness and bittersweetness "Conspiracy" had but much more. It's more comparable to a film by Antonioni in that regard, where feeling and mood carry more weight than the plot and characters (though this comparison is superficial: this movie is nowhere near as masterful or in depth as the masterworks of Antonioni) Many seem to complain about the bleak tone and graphic violence. First off, violence and bleakness are not flaws, they are choices, and simply saying "gore, dark, bad" is not valid criticism. Secondly, why would someone watch a samurai movie if such things are a turn off to them? With that said, I can certainly see valid reasons why someone would dislike this film. If you go into this wanting an action film (and really, why wouldn't you expect that from a Zatoichi movie?), while the action scenes themselves are well done, they are very few and far in between. There's also not a whole lot of momentum in the film. Part of being this kind of mood film is a lack of such, which is somewhat at odds with an action piece. and there is no denying that the characters and plot are, well, not quite nonsensical but lacking. I found Zatoichi's political minded friend to be fairly interesting, but his plot mostly stays under the radar and it's popping up towards the end seemed random. Nothing ever quite comes fully together. It's definitely a fragmented film, which is something of a double edged sword in this context. Also strange are the cheap fade to black transitions often used. Considering this is supposed to be the high budget Zatoichi film, this is a very strange choice for me.
and as has also been mentioned, many elements are repeated from previous films. Just in terms of plot and character, it comes off as what you would get from putting a handful of other entries into a blender.
However, when all is said and done, I did enjoy this movie. It's what I call a "trip", a movie that carries me on it's mood and leaves an impression equivalent to that of a dream: near unexplainable in impact, but an impact none the less.
If you go into this with the expectations of an exciting action film, you'll get it in small doses, like a full course meal handed to you in small servings at a time. However if you go in without expectations, you might end up liking it. After twenty five Zatoichi films, most following the formula, I'm glad that we got something a bit different.
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