The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi
July 23, 2004
Movie of the Day for Monday, May 17, 2004
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Takeshi Kitano, aka Beat Takeshi, has become quite the cultural icon from his native Japan, with appearances in films such as Battle Royale and various television series setting him apart as one of the preeminent stars of his nation. So, too, is the legend of Zatoichi, which has been translated to a series of movies that found prominence throughout the 1960s and created a character that is as well known in Japan as Han Solo is in North America.
It’s only natural, then, that Beat Takeshi would take on the role of the titular blind wanderer for himself as he recreates the legend both with his own personal storytelling touches and directorial talent. While Zatoichi’s blindness might seem to be his dominant quality at a cursory glance, his modest, shuffling appearance belies the fact that he is actually a master swordsman. This heroic figure roams the countryside, gambling and giving massages, but those who cross him find themselves in a rather precarious situation.
In Beat Takeshi’s 21st century update, Zatoichi moseys into an isolated mountain town, and quickly discovers that the village is under the thumb of a sinister gang known as the Ginzos. With the assistance of a mighty samurai ronin named Hattori, this gang is extorting money from the town denizens. Zatoichi befriends a fellow gambler named Shinkichi, encounters two strange geishas who have sworn to avenge the deaths of their parents, and finds himself bound for an inevitable showdown. Since this is a Beat Takeshi film, expect a lot of his trademark humor to be interjected amidst the eye-popping battles.
Zatoichi has already won several Japanese Academy Awards (though it did lose Best Picture), not to mention being selected for the People’s Choice Award at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival. It looks to be a huge crowd pleaser as long as Miramax doesn’t follow in their strong tradition of botching foreign releases horribly. (Kim Hollis/BOP)