BUENA VISTA has released "ZATOICHI: THE BLIND SWORDSMAN" on blu-ray. A popular character, Zatoichi is,....."a blind swordsman," rescuing residents of a small town at the mercy of deadly gangs. The director, Kitano, also plays the starring role. He's terrific in the part, and to his credit, doesn't mind allowing supporting characters to steal some of the thunder. Kitano's re-envisioning of this character is often bold. However, his interest in developing so many characters is also one of the film's flaws. As likeable and as moving as these characters can be, they also lend a tone that's at an uneven balance with the rest of the film.
"ZATOICHI: THE BLIND SWORDSMAN" is a weird film within the genre it explores. While the fight sequences aren't drawn out in the extended format of films like "CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON," (which will put off those kinds of martial arts fans) it's also excessively violent in short but vibrantly bloody spurts. So, the art crowd may be turned off by this choice as well. Some of the touches provided by Kitano are even more confusing, as they're just plain weird and don't seem to serve any real purpose other than to maybe reach out to transgender viewers. Nothing wrong with being open-minded, but is a martial arts film really crying out for this?
While certainly not a bad film, "ZATOICHI: THE BLIND SWORDSMAN" is far from one of the better films of its respected genre. And, even while trying to explore the genre with a different perspective, it's still far from being even very good.
BUENA VISTA has provided the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 blu-ray. The image is a mixed bag, varying greatly in quality from scene-to-scene. Colors are deep and contrast offers inky blacks, however, due to noticeable edge enhancement, the overall look appears vastly different than the original theatrical presentation. Detail is often impressive, but other scenes fall completely flat. Artifacts also pop up throughout.
BUENA VISTA has provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for the English "Dubbed" version and only a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for the original Japanese mix. Heavy on dialogue, most of the film is front center focused, however, when fighting sequences occur, the standard dolby digital version pales in comparison to the dynamic range offered on the lossy mix. For those not minding the dubbing, the immersive quality of the DTS-HD Mix is the way to go. So, in its original language, a generally "average" film becomes more average due to the sound mix offered, and that's a real shame, considering this marks its blu-ray debut!
A behind-the-scenes documentary and collection of interviews with production crew, including the cinematographer, are offered in standard resolution.