Screened as part of NZIFF 2004

Zatoichi 2003

Directed by Kitano Takeshi

Japan In Japanese with English subtitles
110 minutes 35mm



Kitano Takeshi. Based on the short story by Shimozawa Kan


Yanagijima Katsumi


Kitano Takeshi
Ota Yoshinori


Suzuki Keiichi


Kitano Takeshi
Asano Tadanobu
Ogusu Michiyo
Natsukawa Yui


Venice, Toronto, Vancouver 2003; Rotterdam, Sydney 2004


Best Director, Audience Award, Venice 2003


“That incredible Japanese institution, Takeshi Kitano – action maestro, art-house auteur, slapstick comic and kids’ television favourite – has made a film which combines all of his talents… Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill recently gave Asian martial arts a new peak… and the air seems alive with the digitally-enhanced swishing of samurai swords and the spraying of blood. So Kitano is therefore ideally placed for his thrilling new samurai picture, which somehow manages to be also a musical, a knockabout comedy and a gentle yet forthright paean to the countryside. It wears all this extra baggage very lightly... Set in the 19th century, the film has Kitano himself as the blind masseur and itinerant wiseguy-warrior Zatoichi, a legendary character familiar in Japan from TV specials and movies starring Shintaro Katsu, but little known over here. Kitano plays him with dyed blond hair and, until the final scene, enigmatically lowered face and eyes. Zatoichi walks the earth… with his preternaturally enhanced hearing and reflexes, invariably encountering yobs and bullies who think they can take advantage of his vulnerability. It’s at this point Zatoichi’s swordstick is unsheathed from his blind-man’s cane and he wreaks mayhem in sizzling fight scenes, whose crimson spouts of blood are stylised, indirect, almost abstract… Kitano finds an ease and candour for all this, and despite the bizarre mix of ingredients, nothing feels forced or uncomfortable, and it all looks like the simple result of Kitano’s boisterous mission to entertain – by any means necessary.” — Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian