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Book & Film Reviews

ICHI 2008 DVD REVIEW

Fumiko Sori (director of the excellent Ping Pong) directs this update of the Zatoichi blind swordsman series (starring Shintaro Katsu) and delievers the right balance of drama and action. Haruka Ayase plays the title role as a blind swordswoman and she eschews any of Shintaro Katsu's humerous tics and plays it very straight. Sori gives her character just the right amount of backstory, revealed just at the right moment in the film. Ayase's foes include the great Riki Takeuchi, who gurns and grimaces his way through proceedings, as only Riki Takeuchi can do. Takao Osawa seems to be the comic relief as a cowardly samurai, yet flashbacks reveal a much darker reason for his inability to fight.

What makes this film work is it's groundedness, the cinematography is naturalistic yet the colourful costumes are imbued with popart sensibility, whilst there is some CGI blood and some frame rate changes during the fight scenes, they don't distract from the period setting. Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance, Gladiator) scores the movie and the music, whilst an unusual choice, is worthy of it's soundtrack release and delivers some serious emotional impact. Whether Ayase's Ichi will be afforded more adventures remains to be seen but for now it looks as though Japan is choosing the right projects to remake. Takashi Miike fresh from his spaghetti eastern - "Sukiyaki Western Django" is currently shooting a remake of Eiichi Kudo's 13 Assassins (1963) and if he follows in the footsteps of Sori's solid groundwork, may have some crossover appeal for western audiences.

4/5

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