Zatoichi (2003)

June 3, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Director Takeshi Kitano (SONATINE, BROTHER) takes on Japanese cinematic legend, Zatoichi. Kitano stars as the blind wanderer with a distinctive red cane and a shock of platinum blonde hair. Soft-spoken and rumpled, Zatoichi makes a living as a masseur and gambler, but his humble, shuffling facade mask a lightning-fast, lethal swordsman. When Zatoichi enters a remote mountain town, he discovers that the Ginzo gang are extorting the townsfolk with the aid of a mighty samurai ronin, Hattori (Tadanobu Asano). Quickly making friends with a talkative fellow gambler Shinkichi (Guadalcanal Taka), Zatoichi meets two mysterious geishas (Daigoro Tachibana and Yuko Daike) who have sworn to avenge their parent’s deaths. As the Ginzo gang tighten their hold on the town, the stage is set for a violent and bloody confrontation.

Filled with such powerful sequences as this exuberant end coda lingering in the memory long after the film has finished, in a year in which Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Ed Zwick’s The Last Samurai look set to have the eyes of mainstream audiences focused squarely back on the East, with this perfectly realised work Kitano finds himself at last in the perfect situation to capitalise on this rekindled interest in Japan. Effortless and uncontrived, Zatoichi is pure cinematic magic, so go see it.

—Jasper Sharp,

“Action-adventure, comedy, and musical – any way you slice it, Takeshi Kitano’s Zatôichi rocks. [The] moonlit massacre at the gambling house is exhilaratingly elegant.”

—Nicholas Schager,


Written, Directed and Edited by Takeshi Kitano

Producer: Masayuki Mori & Tsunehisa Saito; Music: Keiichi Suzuki; Tap Dance Choreography by THE STRIPES; Costume Supervised by Yohji Yamamoto; Cinematography by Katsumi Yanagijima

World Sales by Celluloid Dreams

A production of Bandai Visual, TOKYO FM, Dentsu, TV Asahi,
Saito Entertainment and Office Kitano presentation

“Beat” Takeshi Tadanobu Asano
Michiyo Ogusu Yui Natsukawa
Guadalcanal Taka Daigoro Tachibana Yuko Daike
Ittoku Kishibe Saburo Ishikura Akira Emoto

Country: Japan

Language: Japanese
Running Time: 116 min

• Venice Film Festival 2003 – Best Director
• Toronto International Film Festival 2003 – People’s Choice Award
• Sitges Catalonia International Film Festival 2003 – Best Film
• Sitges Catalonia International Film Festival 2003 – Best Soundtrack
• Marrakech International Film Festival 2003 – Best Director

Kitano MidnightEye interview
Official Zatoichi site

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