Sunday, April 08, 2007
Wow, this is really cool. Yet again I am an idiot, leaving this one in the cupboard in favour of other things, thinking, 'it's Japanese, it'll be hard going."
As usual, I was totally wrong. This is one of the best films I've seen for a long time. It's got everything - violence, comedy, awesome fight scenes, history, dance routines . . .
Ostensibly it's kind of a kung-fu movie, based on the ancient Japanese tale of a blind masseur/master swordsman, who travels from village to village defending the downtrodden and fighting yakuza and injustice.
It's directed by Takeshi Kitano, who also stars as Zatoichi. He makes a very cool character, played very low-key and with a great sense of humour. The other characters are all wonderful, both baddies and goodies. My favourite is the insane fat man who thinks he's a samurai.
The fight scenes are intentionally quite different to your normal sword battles full of clashing blades. Zatoichi wins his fights with quick, decisive strokes, and barely a clang is heard. In the DVD extras, Kitano points out that this seemed far more realistic to him. Why would you waste time banging your sword into your opponent's, when all you wanted to do was kill him before he killed you?
By far the biggest surprise of the film is reserved for the end, however. It's a kind of Bollywood-style song and dance number. This might seem a little incongruous, but it fits perfectly with the rest of the film.