Friday, March 25, 2016

#791: Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance

(Toshiya Fujita, 1974)

The main thing I kept thinking throughout Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance was how impressive Zatoichi was. Over the course of eleven years, 25 Zatoichi films were made centered around the same character and every single one of them is better than this mess of a film. The sequel pulls double duty as a study in contrasts when considering the drop in quality from the original, which looks even more impressive after replicating its tight structure and freewheeling style proved so difficult.

The film fails on multiple fronts, but the worst crime it commits is useless voiceover. The first third or so of the movie includes this vapid narration used to explain things that we mostly already know and illustrate things that were are simultaneously watching. It's awkward, lazy, and unbefitting the original film's inspired delirium. The other flaws in the film are less fatal, but leave it wounded beyond repair: the political story is admirable and interesting, but requires too much exposition to make for a good story for this character; the fight scenes are significantly less creative here, and no one in the film is much of a match for Snowblood, leaving the outcome preordained; the attempt to expand Snowblood's character beyond her simple original plan for revenge is not earned, so we're left to just assume that she would turn to the light and use her powers for justice.

There are some redeeming qualities of Lady Snowblood 2. The music stands out most - though not as focused and perfect as the theme from the original, the score here is consistently impressive and extremely reminiscent of RZA's work in Ghost Dog. Similarly, Fujita has moments of inspiration and is constantly attempting to do something with the material. There's just not enough to carry his enthusiasm in either story or performances. These sorts of forced sequels are extremely common now, but it wasn't always that way. As a spine number, then, Lady Snowblood 2 represents an early failure in this regard, and the best that can be said about it is that they didn't take the easy way out and remake the first movie - though in this case that might have been what sunk them from the beginning.

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