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Zatoichi

Japan 2003
produced by
Masayuki Mori, Tsunehisa Saito for Office Kitano, Saito Entertainment, Asahi National Broadcasting Company, Bandai Visual, Dentsu Inc, Tokyo FM Broadcasting
directed by Takeshi Kitano (= Beat Takeshi)
starring Takeshi Kitano (= Beat Takeshi), Tadanobu Asano, Yuko Daike, Taka Gatarukanaru, Saburo Ishikura, Ittoku Kishibe, Yui Natsukawa, Michiyo Ogusu
screenplay by Takeshi Kitano (= Beat Takeshi), based on a short story by Kan Shimozawa, music by Keiichi Suzuki

Zatoichi

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Zatoichi

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Available on DVD !

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Always make sure of DVD-compatibility !!!
19th century Japan: Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano), the blind masseur & master swordsman, arrives at a village plagued by gangwars & protection money rackets. Wanting nothing but to be left in peace & to do some gambling as a pastime (he always wins, he soon finds shelter at the house of a poor farmwoman whonm he helped, & soon finds associates in form of a somewhat dim-witted gambler and 2 geishas (one of them actually a man in disguise) wanting to avenge the murder of their parents. But he also finds a mortal enemy in form of ronin Tadanobu Asano, the only swordsman with fighting skills matching his own, & is thus sucked into the turfwars of the city - a war which he in the end of course wins, slaying almost anybody remotely associated with the fighting gangs, & of course ronin Tadanobu Asano, too. The avenging geishas also get their revenge, by the way.

 

As the director of this retelling of the Zatoichi saga is Takeshi Kitano, it is of course every bit as bloody as you would expect from a Japanese Chambara-movie, but Kitano would also show his cinematic eye with some beautifully shot & choreographed scenes (& I don't mean the fight scenes, which are rather standard), culminating in a big musical number (!) in the end. Also, Kitano's other career as a comedian would shine through in  some great nonsense scenes ever so often interrupting the rather somber onscreen goings-on.

For the actor Kitano, Zatoichi rather seems a logical continuation of much of the characters he portrayed in his earlier movies, who were very often stoic & violent lone wolf characters in the first place - even though shades of legendary Zatoichi-series starring Shintaro Katsu (playing the character in 25 movies from 1962 to 1973, a tv-series & a revival movie in 1988, directed by himself) are shining through.

In all, despite travelling much-treaded grounds, a great auteur-movie from Takeshi Kitano (although his trademark seaside-scenes are completely absent here), & an ironic but not insulting look at chambara-cinema. Zatoichi-purists will love to hate this movie though !

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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