The Tale of Zatoichi
The adventures of a blind, gambling masseur who also happens to be a master swordsman.
The blind swordsman Zatoichi (Katsu Shintaro) becomes involved in a war between gangsters and forms a bond of friendship and respect with the man who is supposed to kill him (Amachi Shigeru).
This is the first in a long-running series of samurai films starring Katsu, who displays great skill both as an actor and a martial artist. His relationship with Amachi, an idealized form of Bushido honor, leads to a surprisingly moving finale. Like many samurai films, this one laments the passage of a nobler time by presenting characters whose staunch principles reflect unfavorably on men of lesser morality who also follow the way of the sword.
When I lived in Japan, I was surprised that the American TV character…
Discounting Kitano's quirky, revisionist take--which I did not enjoy--this is my first Zatoichi film. 'Zatoichi 1' is primarily a drama, and a good one at that. Where Kitano's silences were inexpressive, Katsu appears contemplative and conflicted. He is a captivating, charismatic force, and the supporting players are strong as well. Hirate is a well-drawn and likeable adversary, and the scenes he shares with Zatoichi are fantastic--there is a mutual respect which injects the story with tension. A great start to this colossal series, Zatoichi has now been established--now bring on the action.
Can't believe I waited this long to watch it. Good old fashioned samurai fun, well made. Surprisingly touching and thoughtful. Guess I'm gonna have to watch the rest of these.
My favorite genre in films is Film Noir, but running neck and neck with it is jidai-geki chanbara films from Japan. A few years ago I started catching a lot of these films on IFC on Saturday mornings. Unfortunately, they would start at 9AM and being in the hospitality industry, I'm usually still sleeping at that time. So I've caught most of these films in midstream. One of my favorites of these genre of films are the Zatoichi films. Now that Criterion is streaming free films on Hulu, I've gotten to see the first two films in their entirety. A lot of the character traits of the blind masseur are still to be worked out in the following installments, but…
Much like entering a hot tube from a snowy winter night, the transition from modern Hollywood to 1960's japanese cinema can be rough for some audience members. It is well worth it. Zatoichi consumes the audience's attention from moment one until the credits role. Humor, horror, and heart breaking conflicts make up this unique series that inspired Tarantino, Leone, Rodriguez, and many more critically acclaimed filmmakers. Watch this film and you'll agree; they never beat the original.