Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Japanese Rebel-Hero -- "Zatoichi" (1989)

Shintaro Katsu is an actor who needs no introduction. Having played the rascal Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman, in 26 films, he knew exactly what made those films so indelible. Zatoichi: Darkness is his Ally, is a breathtakingly beautiful film, shot with almost totally natural lighting. In fact, the photography of the film is near brilliant in it's lighting and set-up. Something about it is deeply nostalgic, like something out of a film dream I've had. It must be reminiscent of films that I watched as a child. Zatoichi, the rebel-hero of Japanese action film, is always completely outnumbered and disadvantaged by his blindness--and always seems to defeat his armed foes. The final set piece in this film may be one of the best sword battles in Chanbara film history. And it was hard to believe that Zatoichi actually had sex with a gorgeous tattoed naked yakuza girl in a hot spring. It was even more incredible that at age 69 Shintarô Katsu pulled the scene off, and it was quite erotic! But what was the reason to have the English song in the film? It made absolutely no sense!

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