July 6, 2006

Watch Where You're Pointing That Thing


There's not a whole lot that Cinecultist loves more than a smart samurai movie. A flick which is aware of its genre's legacy and yet willing to riff on the tropes to make it modern. We'd been meaning to catch Takeshi Kitano's* remake of the classic Japanese samurai character, Zatoichi, the blind swordsman, for ages and finally got around to it this past weekend.

Kitano wrote the screenplay, directed and stars in the film about a wandering ronin who poses as a blind masseur but ends up saving a village from some warring gangsters. With its quirky villagers, detached but kind hero and flashback structure to fill in character motivation, Kitano's filmmaking is obviously indebted to both Kurosawa's morally fuzzy freelance samurai and international art house directors' whimsy like Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

There's also another stylistic cross-pollination going on which a friend pointed out to us as we were extolling the virtues of this fun film--our over-rated nemesis, Quentin Tarantino. In all of the sword work, the opponent is quickly dispatched with a well-placed flick of the sharpest blade ever (it cuts through a stone lantern at one point!). According to commentary on the making of docu on the disc, Kitano thinks this is more realistic. What's not so much grounded in realism is the geysers of blood shooting out of each of the adversaries. A hand is loped off and then the fountain starts with the blood digitally set in stark relief to the background. So very Tarantino, and damnit kinda cool. Though we guess it probably wasn't such a good idea to be eating lunch in front of the TV while this movie was playing.

Despite a bunch of icky moments, the film has such a delightful sense of fun about it. More movies should seem this joyful. Also, they should have Tadanobu Asano in the cast and end with a tap dancing musical finale. That would be our recipe for more successful moviemaking.

* Everyone knows that Takeshi's nickname is "Beat" but we feel sort of dopey typing it in between his first and last name. Seems there's something lost in the translation with that moniker. So just imagine that we've acknowledged it, yet also are treating him like an ar-teest deserving of full name only respect.

Posted by karen at July 6, 2006 10:34 AM