Was it 2004? If it wasn't, I apologize, and will not change the date above but will keep the right one in mind for the next Zatoichi-related post I make after you email me the correct year. Anyhow, this movie is fantastic. It's amazing. It's really great.
The main character is a blind masseuse traveling around the country, but there are plenty of other main characters as well, including a fat guy in a Samurai suit, a gambling addict, a transvestite and his sister, a ronin and a gang boss, and they all have roles to play in the story that unwinds. There's a lot of action, and though the blood may seem exaggerated at times (see ^), it's always realistic (at least it seems realistic) and stylish. There's a lot of slicing involved, so of course there's a lot of blood. It has just the right amount of exaggeration to it. The director puts the colors Red and Blue into focus, as he does in all his other movies, Red standing for evil and Blue standing for good. It's the classic clash between good and evil, with a twist. He also uses Gray and Brown, which is btw completely unrelated.
The story about this clash of personalities takes place in olskool Edo, where early Yakuza along with ronin (samurai without masters) and samurai roam the country. The movie is intense and fast-paced, with lots of variety. The scenery is varied, as are the swift sword techniques showcased, along with the characters, events and different angles of filming. The story puts together both Drama, Action and Comedy. Great music too, both ambient and exotic, and strangely it always seems to match the suspense in each situation. Maybe it has to do with the culture portrayed, a kind of determined calm, the concentration behind each swing of the sword, you know, Asian stuff. Speaking about culture, if you want to see what Japan looked like a few hundred years ago, this movie will take you there. If you're interested about Asian culture in general, this movie has a lot of it. Duh. It's Asian. The whole thing is a work of art, a must see. And the dance scene just before the credits roll is the real grand finalé. :)
Btw, this is the first Zatoichi movie that has made it across the oceans, to all sides of the world, but it's not the first movie about Zatoichi. Zatoichi is a folktale in Japan, and if I remember right there are 24 movies (apart from this one) made about him, with many different actors and plots. They're in a series in the same way as James Bond, each one being a story of its own, sometimes with new actors as main character. This movie is a new, more international start to an old legend; I hope not the last!
rated 4/5: fo shizzle
A blind samurai. Two geisha. A gambling nephew. A ronin - a bodyguard. Three rival gangs. Somehow they all wind up in the same village, and their fates slowly intertwine. The story stirs with a slice of life as it used to be (did it really?) in the old days of Asia, and soon moves to encounters, confrontations, occasional comedy, and some of the quickest sword draws I've seen in a movie.
The action's good. Violent. Brutal. Varied. Bizarre in its close ties to comedy, as if death is no big deal. But then again, death is no big deal is it? Eventually it happens to us all. Maybe the part that is, but doesn't feel like such a big deal in this movie - is the excessive violence. Arms get chopped off for little here, but in the context it's not out of place.
Zatoichi, the blind swordsman, is but a passerby in this mad village, but all character fates weave together nicely; lead up to the grand showdown. Though it's short, it's an intense battle. And then: a few steps and a trip. It's a refreshing movie.
rated 4/5: fo shizzle