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The story of the blind swordsman Zatoichi should be well known to most
aficionados of Japanese cinema. I was thrilled when i heard that
Takeshi Kitano (of all people) would be making a re-make of the classic
series. And i was not disappointed.
The blind masseur/swordsman Zatoichi stumbles upon a lone widow when he comes walking in the countryside. He helps her carry a basket and she tells him of her problems while he is invited to stay with her. The local town is plagued by a war between different criminal factions and the protection rates are constantly going up. Soon two geishas also arrive in town with their own agenda, linked to one of the warring gangs.
Zatoichi is a beautiful film in my opinion. Everything from photography and scenery to music is exceptionally well tuned to the mood of the film. Also the action sequences are very well made, the fencing well choreographed and nicely shot. What distracted me somewhat though is the use of liquid animation for the blood. There is almost no usual fake blood in this movie, rather it's liquid animation-blood spraying when people are stabbed. This looks odd, but it's still a minor distraction.
Zatoichi feels both like a nice tribute to 60's and 70's samurai-films as well as a fresh take on the genre. Both modern and classic, which is one of the finest compliments i feel you can give a movie like this one. I enjoyed it very much and i rate it 7/10.
Zatoichi is the updated version of cult Japanese show some decades
back.Here a blind swordsman goes to a small town controlled by a ruthless
gang and abuses the people there. There he meets many characters like the
siblings on a mission, a samurai who is hired by the gang, as well as an
unlucky gambler who befriends the blind swordsman.
This is the first ever Takeshi Kitano film I have ever seen and I got to say it turned out to be a rather pleasant surprise. Prior to this I have heard so much about Kitano's work and was really expecting to see a really good film. Add to that every samurai film I see normally gets compared to Kurosawa's works like Rashomon, and Ran which of course are tough acts to follow. I thought the film was well made in many aspects. The cinematography was really beautiful and well made. The costumes like most period films were finely crafted and were beautiful. The scoring was also very good.
I always find it rather hard to laugh in a film that is non-English. I guess I always believed that humour doesn't always transcend different cultures. What may be funny for one may seem rather dull in another. This film however debunks that thought. I found myself laughing over a lot of scenes in the film. Even in scenes where you do not think there could be a funny moment Kitano is able to deliver one just to break the tension a little.
The fight scenes in this film were also well planned and I though it was done realistically but not necessarily done to shock the audiences with bucket loads of blood and mangled body parts. It was effective but not too disturbing.
I also thought that the overall story of the film was good. I was particularly interested with the story of the siblings and it's eventual resolution at the end of the movie.
Takeshi Kitano's Zatoichi is a great film which now ranks as one of my and hopefully it will be to other people. I'm already anticipating the next film from this great film and will also look for some of his earlier works.
This is a strange one, a drama/comedy/action film with absurdist
overtones. In Japan, Zatoichi is a cult character who was the subject
of 26 feature films between 1963 and 1989. Now director "Beat" Takeshi
best known for Hana Bi introduces Zatoichi to a new generation.
Takeshi also stars as Zatoichi, the elderly masseur and dice gambler
whose hearing is so acute he can detect which side a die has fallen.
He's a master swordsman, too one slice and you're diced.
Supporting characters include two beautiful geishas avenging their parents' death, a farmer and her drunkard nephew, the gangsters running the town and a masterless samurai (an impressive performance from Tadanobu Asano).
The Blind Swordsman is great fun, although it could do with a tighter structure. And I was shocked by the spectacular tap-dancing finale in traditional Japanese dress and shoes! ***½/***** stars.
Zatoichi is a good humoured blind man who travels making his living from
being a masseur. He arrives in a small village, keeping secret his
as a swordsman. The village is split with rival gangs, one of whom hires
troubled but talented samurai to wipe the others out. Meanwhile two
beautiful geisha sisters are more than they appear. Into the middle of
impending bloody conflict walks Zatoichi.
One of the good things about Kill Bill may well be that it brings a wider audience to the martial arts genre from the Far East on a bigger scale. If that is the case then this is one of the films that they will likely come to first in the cinema, as it is about to have a full UK release. I was able to see this as part of the Birmingham Screen Festival 2004, so I was in a full audience that was ready and willing to be entertained and this may have helped me enjoy it more than a half full cinema of people who have just drifted in. With or without this atmosphere I found this to be an enjoyable, stylish, funny and violent film - but not without flaws.
The biggest flaw is the plot sadly. At it's heart it is a good story, but the manner of delivery really hamstrings it's ability to engage and grip. I have read that it was meant to be a homage/spoof of operas, and my very astute (and beautiful!) friend told me that the way of having lots of minor characters to almost cover costume changes for the main actors is a musical thing and that the film reminded her of that. While I accept that may be the reason for the way the film is, it doesn't change the fact that it didn't work for me. The films starts with difficulty - it is hard to follow with so many characters and gangs of which we are given no history to work with. This continues for much of the film, with minor characters coming and going, partly contributing to the overall story but also breaking up the flow with subplots that are never really explained or understood.
This trend continues, with the film never getting a real tension or pace to it. The conclusion of the film is a bit of a letdown - although I may have been conditioned to expect `the big showdown' in this genre. It still works pretty well but I just had a pretty big problem with the way the story flowed (or didn't). This is not to downplay how much I did enjoy it. The film has a great thread surrounding Osei where he acts as a comic relief - all his stuff is very funny and it really helps to break the tension; it's just the things like the bodyguard's subplot - nothing explained yet quite a lot of weight put on him. While it does lack pace, tension and punch, it still works well enough to hold the action together.
The fights are bloody, stylish and enjoyable although I fear that those weaned on Kill Bill's excess will not accept it as gory enough. The use of CGI blood may be a problem as well - personally I found it to compliment the otherworldly effect of the film by being almost more pronounced than `real' blood would be. The fights are enjoyable, although they are perhaps a little too brief - certainly some of the more important fights were over way too quickly and without ceremony. Generally though, the film looks amazing. Each shot is framed really well and, where the characters are still or set against a big background, many of the shots would look great on a poster. The sets are fantastic and really capture the sense of period and place. As director, Takeshi really has done well even if he could have done with a bit more help on the action front.
The cast are roundly superb even where the are let down by the material a little bit in terms of their characters. Takeshi plays his character with an easy going humour that contrasts nicely with his sudden, violent movements at key moments. Easily the standout performance though is from Taka, who brings so much to the film with his likeable, comic fool. He is very funny throughout the film and his lack of background is not a problem as none of his strands call upon that like the others do. Asano's bodyguard is interesting but sadly poorly served by the material. The two sisters are OK but again their performances are overshadowed by the fact that their sections of the film are not as strong as need be - the slightly corny CGI ending involving them is only corny because I didn't have sufficient buy in to their characters to care that much. The various villains fail to impose themselves on the film but enough is done by Takeshi and Taka to keep the audience engaged.
Overall I did really enjoy this film. It was visually very stylish, funny, engaging and enjoyable. It has flaws with the structure, the plotting in regards characters and suffers from a lack of real excitement or consistent tension but it is still more than worth seeing.
Zatoichi is definitely one of my favourite films and I consider it one of
Kitano's best if not his best in terms of his acting and directing. I have
the majority of Kitano's films and I was over joyed to hear that he was
starring and directing Zatoichi and I was not disappointed when i saw it.
Everything about the film is exceptional although a big disappointment for
me was the fact that CGI blood was used which does look a bit fake in some
scenes. That is the only criticism I can think of. The film is very violent
but like Kill Bill it is comic violence. I was also pleased to see Tadanobu
Asano(Kakihara from Ichi the Killer)who was very good and he also plays a
reasonably similar role in Gohatto(also starring Kitano). Fans of Kitano and
Japanese cinema should watch this as well as fans of the Zatoichi franchise.
Near flawless film!!
What more is there to say? Zatoichi is a class act, all the way. Time and time again Takeshi Kitano proves himself an honorable, direct, and honest filmmaker. There is no whiff of pretense, nonsense, or any other kind of malodorous sense emanating from this film. All is well when you enter into one of Beat Takeshi's film worlds. It puts all of Western cinema to deep shame, for its trite, condescending, and totally vapid worldviews. That Beat Takeshi is so well-regarded in France and Italy speaks well of cultural refinement of these nations. And to find so few reviews of Takeshi's work in the Western media exposures a gaping void in everybody's understanding of the Eastern hemisphere. The sensible, sane, and helpful ideals of Confucianism permeate this film to its very core. Overall, Zatoichi is essential viewing for anyone who would like to consider themselves even remotely human.
It's a kind of "what the hell" type of movie, as in "what the hell, let's throw in a dance scene," as in "what the hell, let's play with 50 years of mythology' as in 'what the hell is an action movie really?" I liked it. It had a desert dry humor about it, the action scenes were amazing (yes, the blood is supposed to look fake!) and I just liked the shear audacity of it all. Kitano made a crowd pleasing action film with out sacrificing his art. It isn't the plot that makes this one go, it's Kitano's refusal to play to anyones expectations. It's not a perfect movie, but it's amazing to watch a film maker at the top of his game just showing off for his own selfish pleasure.
Kitano's update on the legacy of one of Japan's most iconic cinematic figures is an exhilarating watch, the more tender moments conflicted by a barrage of bloody violence. Takeshi remains true to his source, undergoing the sedate transformation to play the blind swordsman and part time masseuse Zatoichi himself, as well as co-ordinating the action. His purists will no doubt abhor the witty sense of fun laid on thick in certain characters (a gambling sidekick and an insane neighbour) and the little nuances of irreverent genius (a drum dancing soundtrack and a ho-down finale orchestrated by Japanese dance troupe 'the Stripes'), but this isn't the Yakuza bloodletting of his earlier films, rather a more charming reflection on feudal life, with a distinct post-modern twist. Further confirmation of this is provided by Takeshi's story, which focuses more on the plight of two avenging Geishas (one male) hunting for the prestigious killers of their parents, rather than the motivation for our titular hero, yet Zatoichi does leap into action when he agrees to assist the siblings. Each frame is a Kurosawa-esquire masterstroke. This is Zatoichi for a new era, and with such a breathtaking start, it will be hard for Kitano not to return to his new-found alter ego any time soon.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you thought that Japanese cinema is all Akira Kurosawa or the
"Ringu" series, then you may want to check out an audience favourite at
Venice and Toronto Film festivals, "Zatoichi". The creator of "Hana-bi"
(1997) and "Dolls" (2002), Takeshi Kitano turned to a historic figure
of the Japanese culture, and so directed his first period piece, and
directed it masterfully.
Zatoichi (Beat Takeshi/Kitano) is a blind old masseur, with blonde hair, who can fight with his sword as well as Michael Flately can dance with his feet. He does not have many enemies, but he is good at creating them, in order to defend the just. And, of course, he attacks single-handedly the biggest mafia clan in a village in 19th Century Japan. The plot is simple, but it does contain some interesting moments, which focus mainly on some minor characters. Hattori (Tadanobu Asano) is forced by fate to protect the baddies in order to save his wife, while Osei (Daigaro Tachibana) seems to enjoy dressing as a Geisha along with his sister Okinu (Yuko Daike) in order to revenge the death of his family. Otherwise we have a lot of extraordinary fighting scenes, with amazingly low-tech blood effects for Japanese standards.
This isn't flying "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" for you, but a gory down-to-earth action epic, in case you were wondering. It also contains a lot of humour in the most unexpected of places, and apart from the wanna-be samurai child, it is frankly hilarious.
"Zatoichi" is a still highly controversial. Our hero lives by gambling, and he seems to enjoy living on other's mercy. However, these are mild issues in comparison to the distressing moment when a 10-year old Osei willingly offers himself to another man in order to gain money for him and his sister. I cannot recall another film in which homosexual paedophilia is promoted by children, and, more importantly, as an acceptable means for achieving an end.
Nevertheless, there are two main reasons why this film should not be missed. First you have great performances given by the main leads, especially by the Daigaro Tachibana in his first ever screen part, and Michiyo Ogusu as Aunt Oume. And then the choreography as you may witness probably the best group dance since the 1970s seen in a film. And if one mentions 19th Century Japan and tap-dancing in the same phrase, than this should be a hint to what you may be expecting. Believe it: It is spectacular! Great swordfights and lots of fun in an epic about a blind hero could this be all "Zatoichi" is about? See it, and judge it for yourself.
Takeshi Kitano's offbeat samurai drama marks a personal triumph for the
man himself and a notable entry for the genre. Kitano directs and stars
as the blind samurai of Japanese pulp fiction; Zatôichi. He puts in a
grand performance and really brings the character to life. His
direction is superb also, and he succeeds in creating a foreboding and
tension filled atmosphere that also captures the familiar
Kurosawa-esque feel of the classic samurai movies. The story follows
the fate of blind samurai master: Zatôichi. This master doesn't let a
small thing like losing his sight get in the way, and in spite of being
blind, the master is still the fastest man with a sword; as he proves
on a number of occasions. The first thing you will notice about the
fight scenes in this movie is that they are bloodthirsty! That's no bad
thing, of course, especially since the second thing you will notice is
that there's lots of them. The fight sequences are definitely the
highlight of the movie, and they include some highlights in themselves;
as we watch in delight as limbs fly and people get sliced and diced!
The fights in this film make the likes of Kill Bill look even more
ridiculous than it does already.
Takeshi Kitano creates his own world for the characters in the movie to inhabit, and he also seems keen to incorporate as many elements as possible into the plot, which is good in one way as it ensures that the movie is always intriguing and interesting, but it does get a little convoluted and, at times, makes you think "what's that there for?!". Still, the film does offer lots of interesting little tidbits, and it never gets so convoluted that it becomes boring. Well, it can't do; there's always another fight scene round the corner! The film is artistically played throughout, and you get the impression that Kitano has an obvious respect for the art of cinema, which is certainly no bad thing at all. Even though the plot is very familiar, and anyone that's seen more than a couple of samurai movies will have seen one with a plot like this one has; it's inventive enough to carve out a niche of it's own, and it draws it's originality from that fact. On the whole, this isn't a great samurai movie like the ones of yore; but it's encouraging that films like this are still being made, and it's easily one of the best movies of 2003. Recommended viewing!
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