How does one perpetuate the longest-running samurai action series--which yielded 26 films and over a hundred TV episodes starring the late Shintaro Katsu as a blind, sword-wielding masseur--without belaboring it? Comic writer-director-star Takeshi Kitano does it by playing stylistic games with the material, until his apparent boredom with the genre is overtaken by his art-movie sensibility. There are geysers of blood, ESP, infantile gags, weird formal ideas about sound and editing, and half-jeering references to Akira Kurosawa. By the end, when Kitano closes with a tap-dancing musical number, the genre has been ridiculed nearly out of existence, but the sense of childlike exhilaration transcends irony. In Japanese with subtitles. 116 min. Reviewed this week in Section One. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Landmark's Century Centre.