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aka THE BLIND SWORDSMAN: ZATOICHI
USA: Miramax Films
UK: Artificial Eye Film Company
Cast: 'Beat' Takeshi, Tadanobu Asano, Guadalcanal Taka, Yui Natsukawa, Michiyo Ookusu, Yuuko Daike, DaigorO Tachibana, Ittoku Kishibe, Saburo Ishikura, Akira Emoto, Hideboh, Noriyasu, Ron II, Suji
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Language: Japanese (English subtitles)
USA & UK: 116 mins
USA Rated: R for strong stylized bloody violence
UK Certificate: 18 contains strong bloody violence
USA Release Date: 23 July 2004 (Limited Release - Los Angeles and New York)
UK Release Date: 19 March 2004
"I thought ZATOICHI was going to be a tough film to make because making a period piece is commonly considered to be much more painstaking. It actually turned out to be quite a fun film to make. I can certainly say that making the film has been one of the most artistically and creatively satisfying experiences of my career" - Takeshi Kitano
A highly entertaining and full-blooded blade swishing extravaganza from the award winning director of HANA-BI and DOLLS, ZATOICHI is Takeshi Kitano's first period movie. ZATOICHI, which sees Kitano in playful mood, has proved both a critical success and audience crowd pleaser, winning both the Silver Lion for Best Director and Leone del Pubblico audience award at the 2003 Venice Film Festival and the AGF People's Choice Award at Toronto.
A Japanese cult classic, the character of Zatoichi was made famous by Shintano Katsu in a series of films between 1962 and 1989. In an inspired and innovative remake, Kitano has made the character of Zatoichi his own. With his platinum blonde hair and blood red cane sword, 'Beat' Takeshi gives a typically deadpan and understated central performance as the deadly swordsman.
19th century Japan. Zatoichi ('Beat' Takeshi) is a blind wanderer who makes a living by gambling and as a masseur. But behind this humble facade Zatoichi is a master swordsman, gifted with lightning-fast draw and strokes of breathtaking precision.
Zatoichi discovers a remote mountain town at the mercy of the Ginzo gang who have recruited Hattori (Tadanobu Asano), the mighty samurai ronin to enforce their rule.
Zatoichi and his trustworthy friend Shinkichi (Guadalcanal Taka), meet up with two mysterious geishas, Okinu and her sister Osei, who have come to avenge their parents' murder. With his legendary cane sword, Zatoichi's path is destined for a violent showdown...
ZATOICHI is a perfectly stylised and choreographed visual treat which Kitano clearly enjoyed making. With its explosive pacing and elaborate swordplay (spurting fountains of digital blood), knockabout humour, rich full-blooded cinematography (by Kitano regular Katsumi Yanagijima), inventive percussion-based score, costumes supervised by Yohji Yamamoto, and a final tap dancing musical finale by 'funk-a-step' group THE STRIPES, Kitano has revamped the classic samurai genre and made it his own, whilst openly acknowledging the influence of Akira Kurosawa, the undisputed master of the genre.