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The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi [Blu-ray]

4.1 out of 5 stars 141 customer reviews

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(Sep 15, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Inventive and bold, this film shines with pristine picture and theater-quality sound on Blu-ray Disc™. In an empire ruled by fear, the people's only hope is the ultimate weapon: Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano) -- a blind, nomadic samurai whose sword has made him a hero and whose courage has made him a legend. Determined to help the desperate residents of a village, Zatoichi seeks justice through revenge. It's a wildly entertaining film that's even more brilliant in Blu-ray™ High Definition.

Bonus Features Include: Behind-The-Scenes Special, Exclusive Interviews With Crew

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Ittoku Kishibe, Beat Takeshi Kitano, Akira Emoto, Michiyo Okusa, Yui Natsukawa
  • Directors: Takeshi Kitano
  • Format: Blu-ray, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Miramax Films
  • DVD Release Date: September 15, 2009
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002DYKPA6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,701 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Kitano's remake of the popular 1960's "Zatoichi-the Blind Swordsman" series (there were probably over two dozen of the original series) takes big risks but largely succeeds. Kitano is a darker, more sinister Zatoichi, and the action is a lot more Tarantino-esque. The sword action is first class but extremely violent, unlike the original series which, like the vintage Westerns, were mostly bloodless affairs. Blood squirts everywhere on the scale of "Kill Bill."

This is not the 1960s Zatoichi, who was a more light-hearted character who often avoided conflict and was even prepared to play a buffoon to avoid violence. Not so here - Kitano stalks his prey relentlessly, like the former Yakusa he was. There is a very adult story spliced in here about the two gisha runaways (one is not who s(he) appears to be) so forget about pre-teens watching this one. Unlike many Samurai period pieces, there is a plot here which is serious and sad.

The unexpected bonus to this movie is the excellent musical soundtrack consisting of Taiko drumming and dancing, well worth cranking up on a home theater system. Peasants threshing rice beat out a syncopated background to a scene, and there is a big Taiko musical send up (not too different from some of the 1960s Zatochi musical numbers) at the end.
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Blending period drama, Shogun Assassin-style ultra-violence, comedy and Stomp-esque musical interludes, Takeshi Kitano's "Zatoichi" is probably the most audacious film to have come out of Japan so far this decade. Kitano - a former comedian who divides his time between gameshow appearances and producing violent gangster flicks - plays the eponymous hero, a blind but deadly samurai who gets off on gambling, chopping wood and putting wrongs to right. It's a masterful turn, and one that Kitano clearly relishes, twitching and chuckling to himself before dispatching enemies with a blink-and-you'll-miss-it flash of his blade.
The plot centres around Zatoichi's battle against the local yakuza and their formidable samurai-for-hire (Ichi the Killer's Tadonabu Asano). There are showdowns aplenty and, when they do come, they're nothing if not spectacular. Digitally-enhanced, cartoony and extremely violent (think: severed limbs and gallons of blood aplenty), the fights are likely to polarise audiences almost as much as the film's climactic, er, tapdance sequence.
In between, we get a revenge drama involving a cross-dressing geisha, a wannabe samurai who charges around wearing little but armour and what looks like a nappy, slapstick galore and numerous musical interludes. In a similar vein to Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark, Kitano draws his soundtrack from ambient noises - as Zatoichi wanders, sightless, through the fields, the sounds of workers' hoes builds up into a natural rhythm. It's a cute effect, and one that's deftly employed here, compounding the sense that Zatoichi - though blind - is catching something that everyone around him misses.
What impresses most is how Kitano manages to draw such unlikely elements together and, moreover, make them work so well.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
OK, let me get this straight: the disc comes with a documentary where the director of photography EXPLICITLY details how and why the director agreed to go with a desaturated color palette for this film. Unfortunately for him, the American version of this disc simply chose to ignore their wishes, saturating the color to make the film look "normal" for American audiences (since we are a bunch of neophytes who could not understand that the color was desaturated on purpose). Joe six-pack apparently also wants films that have been oversharpened, distorting the original film look. This, and not providing us with a high quality version of the original Japanese soundtrack (naturally that is reserved for the dubbed English version, since, again, American audiences cannot bother to read subtitles or care about hearing the original language of the film) make this version of the film on Blu-Ray a slap to the face of any discerning film lover.
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Format: DVD
This Zatoichi movie is a twist on a long line of Japanese movies about a classic hero, a blind Samuri. Everything gets a bit twisted, from the heros blond hair to the cross dressing geisha. It is every bit as bloody as noted in other reviews, however the fight scenes are wonderfully choreographed and the CG slow motion blood droplets are really actually pretty in a strange way. There are no long drawn out fight scenes,the action is abrupt and certian.

There is a special feature on the making of the movie and Kitano explains some of his ideas for the movie. My absolute favorite scene in this movie has become one of my favorite scenes in any movie, it is the showdown near the end of the movie where Zatoichi faces another skilled Samurai the other Samurai visualizes how he will defeat Zatoichi because the grip Zatoichi is using will allow him to be a fraction of a second faster, after visualizing this he looks up at Zatoichi and smiles. Zatoichi quickly changes his grip, momentarily throwing his opponent off guard, then attacks at once. He of course wins instantly.
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Format: DVD
Takeshi Kitano's cinematic style answers to nobody. You either accept it or you don't, and if you're going to derive enjoyment out of his films, you have to understand and accept his quirky approach towards narrative -- such as never signalling a flashback, never introducing characters by name, and lurching expositions.

I had expected that his remake of Zatoichi would become the most accessible of his films, but despite the samurai-film milieu, Kitano's style remains as difficult to grasp as ever. And the middle of the film lags quite a bit, when the back story of the two geishas and the gambling nephew's subplot take over and Zatoichi disappears for 20, 30 minutes straight.

But I'd seen enough Kitano films to be prepared for this. And the reward lies in stunning action choreography, beautiful cinematography, a terrific acting turn from Kitano himself, and some of the best sight gags in the Kitano catalogue. Comedy has always been the backbone of his films, and in Zatoichi he crafts some of his funniest situations and characters. Kitano himself is perfect for this role, with his immense physical presence, yet he constantly expresses that little odd sliver of tenderness and humour that has always made his characters so watchable.

What truly amazes are the action scenes. Characters move with grace and power, and the sound effects are realistic and pack a wallop -- no comic-book whooshes and noises here. Fight choreographer Tatsumi Nikamoto, in a short interview on this DVD, hits the nail on the head: Kitano uses his entire body to drive blows and directs his actors to do the same, making for kinetic swordplay scenes that rank with some of the best martial-arts scenes ever filmed. The choreography, shooting and editing here are leagues above Kill Bill Vol.
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