Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Japan, 2003. Asahi National Broadcasting Company, Bandai Visual Company, DENTSU Music And Entertainment, Office Kitano, Saitô Entertainment, TV Asahi, Tokyo FM Broadcasting Co.. Screenplay by Takeshi Kitano, inspired by the novels by Kan Shimozawa. Cinematography by Katsumi Yanagijima. Produced by Jack Maeby, Masayuki Mori, Tsunehisa Saito. Music by Keiichi Suzuki. Production Design by Norihiro Isoda. Costume Design by Yohji Yamamoto. Film Editing by Takeshi Kitano, Yoshinori Ohta. Toronto International Film Festival 2003.
The Japanese folk hero of legend and a series of episodic films from the sixties has been brought to the modern screen with all of his medieval glory intact. Beloved filmmaker Takeshi Kitano directs and stars as Zatoichi, a blind masseur who is also a master swordsman and avenger of evil all across feudal Japan. He arrives in a village lorded over by a cruel gang who cause murder and mayhem at every corner, particularly in heavily taxing the peasants for “protection money”. Their toughest ronin is another master of his craft who serves as bodyguard for the village goons as a way to pay for his ill sister’s care. Meanwhile, a pair of murderous geishas are traipsing about to supposedly settle an old debt. Watching Zatoichi enter the fray with his flawless skills provides for some visually sumptuous (and sometimes gory) fight sequences. The story is often choppy, but the attitude is always on the light and fun side with plenty of humour between the terrific action and gorgeous production elements. Fans of Kurosawa and Inagaki’s work from the fifties and sixties will especially delight in this one.