Master of the profound silent moment, Kitano was well suited to take on the 1960s Zatôichi franchise and gives it his own, uniquely confident spin. In addition to directing, Kitano takes on the titular lead role, playing the blind swordsman as an ancient, bent, serene loner who, when the occasion demands it, can shake-off his aching bones to despatch several would-be challengers quicker than they can each blink and think about their next move.
Like most of Kitano's directing work, Zatôichi has a disarmingly simple plot, strong characterisation, evocative production styling, many, lengthy quiet periods and strong performances across the board. Kitano is adept at conveying character or story motivation or insight with the subtlest of touches. Although this is a clever and frequently used (by Kitano) device it never intrudes into the milieu. Admittedly, the result is as much filmic as it is authentic such as when CGI, rather than a traditional physical solution, is employed to realise the gore. Although 'gore' is too blunt a word to describe the artistic crimson arches of blood that Kitano has fly through the air in a gracefully choreographed liquid ballet.
Even the bizarre 'Stomp' like finale in which all the characters come together for a peculiarly non-period hoe-down works, demonstrating once again Kitano's ability to produce pure cinema - whatever the scenario. 7/10
Rob Dyer (March 2005)
Babycart series of films
Kill Bill: Vol. 1
Kill Bill: Vol. 2
the Zatôichi series of films from the 60s/70s
A-Z of Film Reviews