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Zatoichi  [DVD]
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Takeshi Kitano's dazzling film is a thrilling tale of swordplay and adventure set in 19th Century Japan. Zatoichi ('Beat' Takeshi) is a blind wanderer whose humble facade disguises his prodigious skills as a master swordsman, gifted with a lightning fast draw and strokes of breathtaking precision. Arriving in a remote mountain town, he finds its people terrorised by the ruthless Ginzo gang and their mighty samurai ronin Hattori, who mercilessly dispose of all who get in their way. With his legendary cane sword at his side, Zatoichi's path is destined for many violent confrontations...
Takeshi "Beat" Kitano, the Japanese actor-director best known in the US for his quirky, ulraviolent gangster movies (Fireworks, Brother, Sonatine) and in the UK (among satellite and cable viewers, at least) for the bizarre It's a Knockout-meets-Endurance gameshow Takeshi's Castle, applies his off-kilter sensibility to the samurai genre in The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi. A blind masseur (Kitano with his hair dyed white) wanders into a small town divided up by rival gangs. Though hunched and shuffling, Zatoichi soon reveals his deadly skills as a swordsman. He befriends a pair of geisha girls with secrets of their own and helps them hunt down the bandits who killed their parents. But one of the gangs has just hired a ronin, a masterless samurai, whose fighting skill may equal the blind swordsman's.
Zatoichi mixes a melodramatic storyline, deadpan comedy, and dazzling, CGI-enhanced swordfights into a supremely entertaining package. In Japan, Zatoichi is a recurring character in popular action movies, but Kitano places his own unique stamp on the series. --Bret Fetzer
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Top Customer Reviews
As he is passing through a small town he hears people talking about the Ginzo gang, who's boss seeks to wipe out all the other gangs in the area placing them as the top dogs.
There is also a ronin who is currently seeking work as a bodyguard, although the term bodyguard appears to go hand in hand with the word assassin.
Then there are 2 geisha's who are looking for the people responsible for the death of their family.
Finally the other main players are a hard workng farmer and her gambling addicted nephew.
The characters are well portrayed and their stories weave together nicely without any confusion or too much exposition. We are treated to a few glimpses from these characters pasts which are kept fairly brief, enabling the story to move along at a nice pace.
The film looks great and is well shot, as is to be expected with Takeshi Kitano at the helm. The sword play is kept short without getting overly fanciful as is the trend these days, the characters defeating their enemies with one quick, well placed blow.
There are some nice moments of humour throughout that work well. A good example being, how do you disguise a blind man? Draw some eyes on his eyelids.
Special mention has to go to the musical score as there are some very clever moments such as at the start of the movie were the sound of the farmers digging in the fields is woven into the music.
A great movie that fans Kitano or samurai movies should enjoy.
Zatoichi is excellent and more light hearted than expected. It contains Kitano's own brand of humour and swift violence, has some great characters and an involving and sometimes poignant story - the geisha twins' tale of lost innocence comes to mind here. He's also added some really neat touches to the sound; the scenes where Zatoichi passes workers in the field and where a house is being built are actually percussive pieces which slowly build up layer by layer until its becomes obvious your listening to music. It might seem a lttle odd in description but it sits well in the overall film. When I first saw these scenes I thought they must be an attempt to get inside Zatoichi's world; he can only hear after all and Zatoichi's finding of rythm and music in everyday sounds might explain his superhuman martial skills. After seeing the ending however, I'm not so sure.
Kitano plays the lead really well (with a Gazza haircut) and his reserved style of acting is ideally suited. He adds a subtle kindliness to the role and acts the "doddery old blind man" quite convincingly.Read more ›
While watching the others I couldn't help but feel conspicious "Look at me, I'm fashionable watching western films about Samurai" but with Zatoichi there's none of this feeling.
Kitano's directing style is straight down the line, totally unpretentious.
Yes it's 'arty'. It's a foreign language film with subtitles which'll put some people off within the first two minutes.
Kitano's style of long lingering unmoving shots has been curbed here, the man himself states it's to make a more mainstream film, to make use of more modern film-making styles. Good on him.
The plot is a classic Japanese period plot; A town is being run by an underhand and violent Yakuza gang, a hero enters the town, defeats the gang and gets a final showdown against the tough bad guy (in this case Tadanobu Asano (Ichii The Killer) perfectly cast as the mighty no-nosense ronin Hattori.
Kitano himself plays the blind masseur Zatoichi who turns out to be incredibly skilled with a blade. Soon Zatoichi is befriended by a lovely middle-aged lady, her nephew (the no-good gambler with a heart of gold) and two geishas with a sad and bloody past.
The pretty graphic violence (swordplay aplenty)is offset by a lot of fantastic visual and verbal humour and a magnificent soundtrack with dance finale.
Don't expect any clashing of swords though, Kitano was determined to make the fighting as realistic as possible, meaning fights are short and bloody affairs, perfectly handled by actors and direction alike.
Kitano's acting performance is spot-on as the chuckling, shuffling friendly masseur, turned death-bringer when required.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This samurai film is not brilliant and the story is your typical yakuza gang storyline .The fighting which is why i want these movies is enterertaining thats whu ive gave it three... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Love this film. In parts silly, in parts quite foreboding. The music sticks out in one way, and perfectly matches the mood in another. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Stuart C
I love Japanese, Korean and Hong Kong cinema. I am also a big martial arts fan and I loved this film. Read morePublished 6 months ago by thatwinningsmile
What a fantastic film. Tense, gripping and full of humour. Loved it.Published 8 months ago by Eli Pledge