Zatoichi Takeshi Kitano

Zatoichi Takeshi Kitano
Takeshi Kitano (Violent Cop) revives Japanese folk hero Zatoichi in an audacious, dazzling film. Set in the early 1800s, Zatoichi is a blind masseur and roving gambler who turns into a ruthless swordsman whenever innocent lives are threatened. He's the Japanese Indiana Jones and his films are a blend of bloody swordplay and warm laughs. Zatoichi wanders into a remote mountain town terrorised by the Ginzo gang, who recruit the deadly Ronin Hattori (a commanding Tadanobu Asano). As the Ginzo gang shakes down local merchants and slaughters its rivals, Zatoichi befriends Shinkichi, a lazy but lovable gambler, and his sensible Aunt Oume. Zatoichi and Shinkichi meet up with two geishas, Okinu and Osei, who come to town to avenge their parents' murders by Ginzo. Before long, Zatoichi crosses paths with the Ginzo gang, leading to a bloody showdown. Writer, director and star Kitano adds modern touches to the Zatoichi legend (blonde hair, a red cane/sword, bloody CGI effects, modern music) but maintains the light comedy and his trademark slashes of ultra-violence. His script is complex, weaving together the back stories of the geisha sisters, Shinkichi and Hattori through skilful flashbacks. At times there is too much cross-cutting between characters, but Kitano adds such detail to his characters that all is forgiven. Notably, Kitano manages to make the villain Hattori sympathetic and human. The DVD release of this award-winning film is a generous two-disc affair complete with a detailed "making of" featurette, interviews with several cast and crew, plus a lengthy Kitano interview from French TV. Thoughtfully, the extras avoid the Hollywood disease of back-slapping the director and stars, and instead provide honest background on how the film was financed (while Kitano was finishing Dolls) and explains the choices Kitano made (i.e., going blonde) to update the Zatoichi legend. Given the language barrier, the only thing missing is a director's commentary. This is an enjoyable package from start to finish. Plus: photo gallery. (Seville)