For Reel

Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance (1974)
November 21, 2016, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Toshiya Fujita
2.5 Stars
lady-snowblood-2Having completing her life’s goal in Lady Snowblood, Yuki Kashima’s (Meiko Kaji) only remaining purpose is to fend off those who wish to punish her for the carnage she caused. In a bravura opening setpiece, Kashima hacks and slashes her way down a long, winding path as the camera follows in front of her in an unbroken tracking shot—she shows no signs of being winded or even frightened by the situation, rather she disposes the men who approach her with ease. Kashima’s great appeal as a tragic protagonist is that she is a character whose will was thrust upon her—she was birthed to be nothing more than a vessel to carry out vengeance—and the sequel seems to have its head in the right place by suggesting that she, again, is nothing but a pawn in a larger scheme involving Japanese imperialism. But this question of free will plays as a minor point within the political drama that makes the core of the film. It is a ludicrously misguided sequel—not only abandoning what made the first film special, but casting aside the protagonist in a fairly small role—but director Toshiya Fujita does maintain a tightly-constructed, dynamic aesthetic that visually demonstrates the series’ narrative of entrapment (in one scene, Kashima lunges through a broken two-way mirror and looks as if she is contained within a picture frame).


Lady Snowblood (1973)
November 21, 2016, 3:08 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Toshiya Fujita
5 Stars
lady-snowbloodAlthough this revenge saga has a familiar story, it is full of consistent surprises in both its visual style and in its fatalistic attitude towards its character and the world she inhabits. It opens with a birth and a dying mother as snow falls outside the bars of a Meiji prison. Not long after, a young woman in an elegant kimono walks through the snow twirling her purple umbrella, which shortly becomes a tool to exact a spectacularly violent murder. If director Toshiya Fujita is an unabashed formalist and brings a certain level of class to the pulpy framework, his style isn’t restrictive on the story—it’s not an imposition, rather something that seems to come through the action. Whereas imitators imagine the fascination with violence as something to be gawked at, the killings in Lady Snowblood are never freed from the inherent tragedy of a woman giving her life to something she ultimately never had a choice to retreat from—she is born as a demon, an exactor of revenge. Fujita’s groundwork in establishing a political context convey that, just as Snowblood has no will of her own, the increasing threat of Westernization is rendering the Japanese civilians as pawns in a larger political game.