The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (Part I)
By Mike Derderian
The jingle and jungle of change echoed sharply as it hit the pavement, giving the young man’s ears a warning of the approaching danger. Suddenly, a sword swooshed right past his head but with a back flip he managed to evade the fatal blow.
The assailant yelled out in mockery at the young blind man, who was still recovering from the treacherous swipe that slashed through his right pocket, “you dropped your money Michael san!”
“Life is not worth dying for a few piasters, Kohji” calmly replied Michael, who before being almost hit by a rushing truck managed to recover a quarter of dinar—a sum that will enable him to board the university bus.
The evil coaster-bus conductor Kohji ‘Sharp-tongue’ Yamoto armed with a two-edged katana—seeing that the mysterious passenger survived the speeding cars and his sword—rushed at him in anger. With blazing eyes he delivered a fast blow aimed at Michael’s torso, which the latter blocked easily using the wooden scabbard of his katana. The clanging of swords resonated throughout the bus terminal but no one dared interfere between the two fierce warriors. A sharp whoosh followed by a shrill groan then echoed before a dead silence took over the scene.
No sooner than the camera zoomed at Khoji’s body that collapsed to the ground with a strong thud Michael was shown standing firmly. Facing the camera and clutching his lowered sword—almost touching the blood wrenched ground with its edge—with one hand, he wiped the splattered blood off his face with a white handkerchief before swiftly sheathing it.
The camera then glanced at the bus stop sign that read The Road to Perdition Bus Terminal—Board on Your Own Risk, before shifting towards the blind man, who was groping his passage using his lethal cane. Michael decided to walk home instead.
Yes, dear reader I can clearly hear your comment “this guy has been watching a lot of samurai movies.” Now, come on! We’ve all seen Japanese samurai flicks at some point in our lives don’t be ashamed. There are a lot of people out there, who simply delight in the way-of-the-sword Japanese films, Hong Kong-Jackie Chan-styled kung fu videos and even Bollywood’s action-musical combos. Actually Indians are the only people on earth, who were able to walk scot-free with the cinema rule that says: violence mixes well with music, singing and dancing actors, who perform erotic body language void of passionate kissing scenes so perfectly.
After the success of Edward Zwick’s The Last Samurai and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill franchise, moviegoers all over the world started to show interest in samurai films once again. Samurai films were very popular back in the seventies and eighties to a degree that along with kung fu films it ruled the action genre films for a long period especially among Middle East audiences. However, with the arrival of the serious plot story films the cloud little by little began to shrivel.
To me it never did for I always enjoyed watching a good Japanese samurai film, whenever I had the chance; but not the exaggerated Western production spin offs, for nothing compares to a Japanese samurai flick created by the Japanese themselves—especially if it was directed by Takeshi Kitano.
A versatile director and actor, Kitano every now and then delivers a masterpiece, and the 2003 The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi is a good example.
I first read about it in a movie magazine and then a few weeks ago I stumbled on a pirated version in one of those cheap CD, VCD and DVD shops in downtown Amman—“A film writer has to do what he has to do”—so I bought the DVD and it was worth the JD1 I paid.
Walking with a bent back, masseur Zatoichi (Kitano) gropes the ground using his wooden cane that hides a lethal and sharp katana that is feared by the scoundrels, who know the true abilities and the story behind this old blind man. He reaches a village where people suffer the tyranny of three warring gangs and as the film tagline reads: His sword made him a hero… His courage made him a legend. This summer justice is blind.