Killer Samurai Flick this Friday: Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman


This update to the classic Samurai series has been making the rounds in film festivals, and is opening this Friday at The Landmark, Embarcadero.
For those who aren’t familiar, Zatoichi is a blind masseuse, who wanders from town to town, depending on the kindness of strangers, and gambling a bit here and there to pass the time. But Zatoichi is also a master swordsman, and when he is met with trouble, his sword flashes out and resheathes before the thugs have a chance to hit the ground.
The old series had over 20 black and white films, and in each, Zatoichi usually only drew his blade once or twice during the stretch of each film. This updated version has been Kill Bill-afied, with more than a few bloodbath scenes, complete with CG blood for some interesting and precise splurts that would be too hard to do with the old ketchup packs. Thankfully, among the crimson showers, there is a fight scene of a single sword strike – in spirit, this cut trivializes the other battles, where he merely mows down useless henchmen. But for entertainment value, I’m glad they had both types of fights – both Tarantino and Kurosawa fans will have something to appreciate. And the story kept (mostly) true to the spirit of samurai films, but there weren’t enough silent parts – I would have liked something akin to falling cherry blossom juxtaposed with the glory of bloody swordplay.
Kudos for Miramax for bringing out both Jet Li’s Hero and Zatoichi to the US, even if its in a limited number of theaters.
PS, warning..the film’s conclusion is marred by a musical number straigh outta River Dance. Nothing spoiling or affecting plot. But its just some wacky stuff that doesn’t fit in.
Zatoichi (2003) at the IMDB
The Original Zatoichi
Miramax’s Zatoichi Page
Landmark Theater, Embarcadero’s Zatoichi page

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