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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Zatōichi


Once in a blue moon I’m in the mood to see Samurai’s dramas and this time I chose the 2003 Takeshi Kitano film winner of multiple accolades, honors, awards and nominations, including the Silver Lion at the 2003 Venice Film Festival.

Described by Kitano’s himself as an entertaining film with short takes and dolly’s/cranes cameras (a must for an entertaining film) the movie is set to do exactly that, entertain you with some visual astonishing scenes, lots of fights –some beautifully staged- and lots of computer-generated blood.

The character Zatōichi is a legend in Japanese and eastern cinema compared to James Bond from western cinema and the original series of films featured Shintaro Katsu with the first black and white film made in 1962. Since then many more movies and even TV series had been produced. Kitano after more than 10 years of absence of the character decided to do a remake where Zatōichi discovers a small, remote mountain town caught up in a local Yakuza gang war. There he befriends a local farmer, her gambler nephew and two geisha siblings (one of whom is a man). All together they liberate the small town.

So can you imagine a very traditional Japanese movie character together with a boy that becomes a girl and prostitute himself to get money for him and his sister? And then when older stay as a woman as that’s the way he prefers it. Hard to imagine but that’s part of the story. Also the end dance sequence is strange to say the least with Kitano’s combining traditional Kabuki theatre clog-dancing with what he calls “the latest African-American tap style”; this scene is a tribute to many of the popular Japanese films in which the “happy ending” was followed by a sudden burst into song.

As most Samurai’s films, this is a mix of drama, action, crime and I should say odd comedy to eastern eyes - you will smile at least- but in the hands of Kitano this becomes a masterpiece that is quite different to his usual films, but still very amazing to watch.

Not for all audiences you have to like Samurai movies, Japanese arty cinema and lots of violent and bloody but mesmerizing sword fights.

Enjoy!

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