Today I watched Kazuo Ikehiro’s Zatoichi’s Flashing Sword (1964)
Zatoichi is shot and injured by a young yakuza trying to make a name for himself. He is nursed back to health by the daughter of a local Yakuza boss and is drawn into their conflict over a river crossing with the much more exploitative boss across the water. This struggle takes place over a very small area and the movie uses this as an opportunity to inject a greater sense of place than there has been before.
Along with the well established community comes a great deal of inter-personal conflict which allows the story to take some wonderfully unexpected twists. There is also a good deal of drama because of how well the film establishes its characters and their place in the world. This focus on interpersonal relationships also leads to some of the strongest comedic moments so far in the series.
Zatoichi’s Flashing Sword flows from characterful humour to moving drama and exciting action. The way the film flows from having Zatoichi at his most bumbling and humane to some seriously bloody spectacles of violence is masterful film making. though this high quality of work is rather the norm with this series. 5/5