The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi | Chicago Reader

The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi

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. R, 116 min.

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