Review by Trylon master swordsman Pat Vehling
Spanning a staggering 26 films and 100 television episodes over the course of 27 years, the persona of Zatoichi is one of the most prolific characters on screen in film and television industries in post-war Japan – the only legacy that can best Zatoichi is Tora-San, a series spanning 48 installments that were released between 1969 and 1995, but was of vastly different material. Where Zatoichi was concerned with the rough day-to-day affairs of honor and valor through violence and sheer dumb luck, Tora-San, an unlucky but charming bachelor, was bumbling his way through one failed attempt at marriage after another.
Taking place during the Meiji era in Japan, the films of Zatoichi represent a period in Japan’s history where the citizens were introduced to strange Western concepts and innovations that shook their lives due to political decisions that mostly kept the island of Japan isolated from the rest of the world. This isolation led to a corrupt government where the majority of the people, particularly farmers, were left to fend for themselves.
Takeshi Kitano, most notably known for his plethora of Japanese gangster movies, revisits this age-old tale complete with the cliched but intriguing concept of a corrupt government official abusing the people, something to which our ill-fated pseudo hero Zatoichi is no stranger – he became an orphan at the hand of corruption. Kitano who directs and also stars as our blonde and blind hero, creates a world where the weak fight back and sometimes win, of course at the expense of the loss of the lives of family and close friends.
The character of Zatoichi is a representation of the pain and suffering inflicted on the average citizen during these times; an image of an oppressed society that can no longer continue to suffer through a dying and corrupt government. Despite such a multi-centuries’ long anger, we are given a view at a precise and delicate deconstruction of that oppression, thankfully at the hands of a master swordsman. — Pat Vehling
The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi screens at the Trylon Monday and Tuesday, January 26 and 27, at 7:00 and 9:15. You can get your advance tickets here.