Thursday, August 21, 2008

Zatoichi: The Fugitive review

In the fourth installment of the Zatoichi series, Tokuzo Tanaka adds a more dramatic edge staging a rewarding build-up rather than forcing unnecessary action for filler. Zatoichi really shines here feeling like a serial by reintroducing characters from his past with meaningful situations and emotion. With a lush palette of colors in nature and very modern looking cinematography, The Fugitive is another worthy addition to the series.

After arriving in a town and discovering a reward on his head, Zatoichi is forced to kill a yakuza landowner and create turmoil involving land disputes, lost loves and a rival samurai out to defeat him.

Seeing movies like these in the theatre really confirm how much more engaging an experience it can be there. With a newly restored 35mm print, it’s unbelievable that it was from 1963 as the colors stood out vibrant as ever. Perhaps my visual experience was better than the DVD release but nonetheless it’s only a supplement to the drama and character exploration.

Shintaro Katsu shines once again as the strongest pull to the film. We grow to worship his presence because he portrays so damn likable a character. From the light-hearted comedic moments, to his badass stand-offs and his sorrow, any scene he’s in is near-perfect. This shines more than the action scenes because in fact, nothing is more satisfying then his quick draw to slice a teapot.

Don’t get me wrong, the Zatoichi series has the best swordplay of all the classics. Without any gore and graphic violence, Zatoichi stands off against a circle of mobsters and with swift slices and entertaining choreography we are treated to the good ol’ exaggerated deaths. The action is sprinkled a bit for the beginning but it’s merely a sample until the pay-off at the end. This perhaps makes The Fugitive more accessible for Zatoichi fans interested in the drama and story instead of only the fights.

The Fugitive is another fine installment of the series and a must see if a local theatre gets the new print.


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