Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Lady Snowblood

Finally watched "Lady Snowblood" (Shurayuki-hime) over the weekend. Said to be the "inspiration" for Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" series, it's actually more like the template for those films. I used to think Tarantino was quirky and original, but now I find he's just a rip-off artist with a taste for cheesy films from the 60s and 70s. If you've seen "Kill Bill Vol.1" you'll recognize the theme song pretty's original to "Lady Snowblood!"

Yuki (aka Lady Snowblood) is a fey, kimono-clad beauty whose only purpose in life is to avenge the brutal crime that killed her father and eventually landed her mother in prison, where Yuki was born. Her favorite accessory is a Japanese parasol with a small katana blade hidden in the handle, which she uses on dozens of baddies to good, bloody effect.

Since this is "samurai" story from the free-wheeling 70s, as expected the film incorporates copious amounts of fake blood: rivers, torrents and geysers of it - YAY! There's even a couple of acrobatic Hong Kong-style leaps that foreshadow the high flying choreography we all take for granted these days. The fight scenes are fairly well done and anyway, I usually find "girl-kicks-ass" stories pretty satisfying.

One aspect that stood out for me in this film is the director's predilection for extreme facial closeups, which are particularly effective when Yuki is the object of focus. Played by Meiko Kaji, her eyes literally burn with a dangerous ferocity and cold purpose that make her seem all the more beautiful, really. Lady Snowblood may be a "child of the netherworlds" but she is also a woman, sometimes torn between her sworn duty to kill her many enemies and other, softer sensiblities. It's this tension between Yuki's drive for revenge and some unexpected, womanly feelings that keep the heroine from being a merely 2-dimensional (but beautiful) killing machine.

As a film, Lady Snowblood neither takes itself too seriously nor devolves into outright camp, but "hews" to a middle ground (haha). Be warned however, it IS a samurai film and there IS a disturbing scene or two...if you can't handle blood or a few corpses, you might forego this one.

I was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the extras on this DVD, released by AnimEigo. Particularly impressive are the story notes that outline the period in which Lady Snowblood takes place (Early Meiji). For people not entirely familiar with Japanese history, the notes give a good frame of reference for the action of the film, and explain some rather confusing elements in the plot. You might consider viewing the notes before you view the film. There's even a small dig on Tarantino, where the crew at AnimEigo offer him a position in their translation department, as an unpaid intern, of course. Nice.

There is a sequel, called "Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengence" but I haven't seen it yet, so until then, here are a few screen-caps to keep you busy:

This look means:  SOMEONE IS GONNA DIE!

The deadly secret of the parasol

My kimono may be ruined, but you're fucking DEAD!

Extreme closeup #563

Partial English translation of the Lady Snowblood theme song:

Begrieving snow falls in the dead morning
Stray dog's howls and the footsteps of geta pierce the air.
I walk with the weight of the Milky Way on my shoulders
But an umbrella that holds onto the darkness is all there is.
I'm a woman who walks on the brink of life and death
Who's emptied my tears many moons ago.
All the compassion, tears and dreams -
The snowy nights and tomorrow hold no meaning.
I've immersed my body in the river of venegance
And thrown away my womanhood many moons ago.


Blogger taj said...

Nice review, sistah...I gotta check this one out soon! However, I gotta stand up for Tarantino here. The man has *always* openly acknowledged that his style is based on specific movies that are his favorites, and even been involved in the rerelease of said movies in order to illustrate. Rip off? I think not. He's a collage artist, (not unlike Beck, I might add) taking various elements of his most treasured cinematic experiences and reworking them into new tales. At least, that's my humble opinion (and *not* IMHO, btw, ffs!)

Cheers, fabulosa!


May 12, 2005 7:29 AM  
Blogger Japan-O-Matic! said...

See the film first and then tell me where the Tarantino "style" leaves off and entire plot structure begins...

May 12, 2005 9:43 AM  
Blogger SuperBee said...

Fanks, Japan-O-Matic! :) I'm actually going to try to Netflix Lady Snowbird right now, I loved Kill Bill, so I'd love to see Tarantino's inspiration for it!!! I need to rent the original "The Grudge" as well... I hear its way creepier than the Americanized counterpart...

May 19, 2005 7:00 PM  
Blogger SuperBee said...

Damn. Snowblood. Lady Snowblood.

May 19, 2005 7:01 PM  
Blogger taj said...

Um, excuse me, but there are fans out here, waiting for your next post....;)

May 25, 2005 8:09 PM  
Anonymous maggie said...

Snowblood may not have the MTV-like cuts and perfect framing/coloring, but is far superior.
The original "The Grudge" is by faaaahhh creeepier.
What is the obsession with creepy children for the Japanese?????
And death? (is it sepaku-related?)
And people in bags??? (a la "Audition)

August 14, 2005 9:27 PM  

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