Friday, 28 September 2012

Lady Snowblood Blu-ray review

Director: Toshiya Fujita 

Starring: Meiko Kaji, Toshio Kurosawa, Noburo Nakaya, Yoshiko Nakada, Kaoru Kusuda

Synopsis: Born in a prison as her dying mother lay next to her, Yuki Kashima a.k.a Lady Snowblood knew of life’s hardships from gasping her very first breath. She grows up with vengeance on her mind – determined to avenge her mother’s rape, incarceration and death by finding the three surviving criminals that were behind it all.

It’s inescapable to mention Lady Snowblood without referencing Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films so let’s get it out of the way quick: Kill Bill has clearly been inspired by the structure, many motifs, and style of Lady Snowblood. Whilst watching the Japanese 1973 masterpiece you are constantly reminded of the duplicated scenes in Tarantino’s fourth film, but it should not be looked at negatively; what the facsimile proves is how important this film is and how influential it has become. Seeing it now in glorious 1080p Blu-ray further promotes the spectacular nature of the classic and deservedly grants it a second life.

Whereas an old DVD would still allow you to watch Lady Snowblood in the comfort of your own home the visuals of it may not have seemed as portentous as they should be. With the Blu-ray restoration the opportunity to immerse yourself in the tense, sanguine revenge film has never been so inviting. The film appears brand new and with Masaki Tamura’s elegant cinematography and Osamu Inoue’s taut editing it could even be mistaken for a contemporary release.

There is plenty that Lady Snowblood offers to award its re-release – it’s majestic, malicious and magical in its storytelling. Soon Taken 2 will adorn the multiplexes but for a search-and-avenge movie you should save your money for Fujita’s immortal film coming to Blu-ray. Stories of revenge are a dime a dozen but only the most special get remembered and rewarded over time – this concretely appeals to that notion and the narrative is enthralling. As the story crosses to and fro from Lady Snowblood’s birth, youthful training, and her adult life tracking and killing her mother’s tormentors, the pace never slows nor does exposition or character introduction sour the dynamism. By the end you are left wondering why films of this sub-genre are not made as expertly as this all the time.

Registering the best features of this film for analysis, one cannot overlook Meiko Kaji as the eponymous heroine. She greatly achieves carrying the film all by herself and elevates the film above and beyond the expectations of this type of movie. The close-ups of Kaji capture a wealth of emotions, even it’s seen in the light movement of the eyebrows or the piercing stare of her brown eyes. The acting from the supporting cast and the fabulous lead is never corny or camp (especially taking into account the 70’s flavour) and there is something noteworthy about a genre-piece pushing past the boundaries of mindless entertainment toward an acclaimed portrayal of life, death and vengeance.

Overall, the Blu-ray re-release will be a fantastic surprise to those who are so-far unaware of the film (it exceeds any expectation that one may garner from just reading the synopsis) and an exciting treat for previous fans. It is an exceptional thrill-ride of a film and one that should grace every film fan’s Blu-ray collection.


Special Features: Basic advertising material including trailers and an 11-minute interview with Japanese cinema expert, Jasper Sharp. Sharp’s short but educational history of the film and Japanese cinema of Lady Snowblood’s kind is worth a watch after the movie (at 11 minutes it’s not too demanding). Some artwork, collector’s booklet and original stills are included in the packaging for additional insight into the style and legacy of the film.

Features: ***

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on Flickering Myth.

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