Director: Takeshi Kitano
Screenwriters: Takeshi Kitano, Kan Shimozawa

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


Takeshi Kitano is not as known in the States as he should be, but his fame has reached iconic proportions in Japan as an actor, director, and painter. He is highly celebrated for his spectacular visual style and playful adoption of cinematic genres. He brings to Sundance a classic Japanese character, Zatoichi, who has entertained audiences for three decades in more than 20 features and TV series but has not been represented on film since 1989.

In Kitano's installment, he plays the title role of the kindly, blind, traveling masseur, who, we soon witness, is actually a supreme swordsman. On entering a town in his usual unassuming manner, he finds it overrun with unsavory types. Zatoichi is pulled from his passive shell and is drawn into action helping the Naruto "sisters," two unscrupulous geishas, avenge the death of their parents.

Breathtaking composition, slow-motion action, stunning fight choreography, and the infusion of a modern score are evidence of Kitano's fine-art gloss. That is not to say Zatoichi is without plenty of thrilling, glorious, blood-splattering carnage.

— John Cooper

Screening Details

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