Sunday, December 11, 2016

#2,270. Lady Snowblood (1973)

Directed By: Toshiya Fujita

Starring: Meiko Kaji, Toshio Kurosawa, Masaaki Daimon

Line from the film: "Look at me closely. Do I look like someone you raped?"

Trivia: This movie served as one of the main inspirations for Quentin Tarantino's movies Kill Bill Volume 1 and 2

Director Toshiya Fujita’s Lady Snowblood is one of several films that inspired Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill series, from its basic plotline (a woman seeking revenge against those who destroyed her family) to Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii, who was based on Yuki, the lead character in this movie. Watching the film, it’s easy to see why Tarantino is such a fan of it; from start to finish, Lady Snowblood is an incredibly stylish, and oh so entertaining, motion picture.

It’s the latter part of the 19th century, and a young woman named Yuki (Meiko Kaji) is preparing to take her revenge on the criminals who murdered her father and brother, then raped her mother (Miyoko Akaza). Born in prison, Yuki (who was not alive when the crimes took place) has spent her entire life being trained by a priest Dokai (Kō Nishimura), who has turned her into a killing machine. Now, armed with a samurai sword and with the help of both Matsuemon (Hitoshi Takagi), the leader of an underground organization; and writer Ryūrei Ashio (Toshio Kurosawa), who has penned a book about her mission of vengeance, Yuki manages to track down those responsible for tearing her family apart, and will not rest until each and every one of them is dead.

Lady Snowblood combines gorgeous cinematography with bloody violence to relate its tale of revenge, and right out of the gate director Fujita gives us a taste of what’s to come by way of two pre-title sequences. First, we’re transported 20 years into the past, to the day when Yuki was born. Utilizing a variety of camera techniques, from hand-held to overhead shots, Fujita pulls us into this very dramatic scene, when Yuki’s mother, on her deathbed, lays out the path her infant daughter is expected to follow. From there, we leap forward to the snowy night when Yuki, now fully grown, faces off against a mob boss and his henchmen. Brandishing a sword she keeps hidden in the handle of her umbrella, Yuki quickly dispatches her foes, blood gushing like a geyser from their various wounds. Working together, these sequences set the tone for the entire film, and from there on out, Lady Snowblood is equal parts beauty and brutality.

This, plus a series of well-realized flashbacks (including the murders and rape that set everything in motion) and a bad-ass performance by Meiko Kaji, helped make Lady Snowblood, along with Thriller: They Call Her One Eye, Death Wish, Coffy and Rolling Thunder, one of the finest revenge flicks of the 1970s. Whether you love him or hate him, there’s one thing you can’t deny: Quentin Tarantino has great taste in movies!

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