the great challenge

Julien Seri, the director of Yamasaki – les samourai des temps modernes which is not much of a samurai film is back with Les Fils du vent – The Great Challenge, which sounds like a straight-to-dvd number about a group of guys who jump around the outsides of buildings for a kick and get into serious trouble while slumming it in Bangkok.

I would explain the plot, but it would immediately expose a series of seemingly contrived plot devices in order to get the Yamikasi (the young troupe of French acrobatic building jumpers) to Bangkok, and into, well a whole heap load of trouble. But this film should not be analyzed in such a manner. Whilst puncturing your cornea with highly graded, much stylized Manga – esque images, Mr Seri has evidently immersed himself in Asian contemporary comic book and film culture, and the essence of marshal arts. Brief moments of spiritual enlightenment, racial tension and a love for one of the most exotically beautiful women to grace our screens in a long while (look out for Elodie Yung) puncture blistering scenes of fights a top bamboo scaffolded buildings, grim darkened steel warehouses, and a breath taking final denouement of ridiculous scale. Without a computer generated figure in sight. This is one for DVD replay buttons as mind boggling stunts are brushed aside with yet more bone crushing jumps, spins and kicks.

zatoichi – takeshi kitano

One of my favourite actor/directorsTakeshi Kitano’s latest film Zatochi opens in Australia today, and was reviewed on At The Movies tonight.

Not only does Kitano write and direct, he also plays the title character, an aging blind swordsman who arrives in a remote village and settles down at the home of hospitable widow O-Ume (Ogusu). It’s here we encounter a colourful and bewildering collection of characters. As well as assisting the villagers in freeing themselves from the oppression of a gang of evil samurai, led by reluctant ronin Hatori (Asano), our roguish hero meets two murderous geishas, seeking revenge for the execution of their parents. From there, the inevitable bloody, brutal blood splatter explodes in grisly detail, as the sightless swordsman unleashes his remarkable skill and guile.

At times incoherent, but never dull, Zatoichi is the result of a director clearly enjoying his work. From the rapid editing of the vivid fight sequences to the quietness of the rural scenes, Kitano has crafted a striking re-imagining of an iconic Japanese legend. His stone-faced performance is a delight, played with monkish humility amidst a solid supporting cast. And to prove just how surprising this master visionary is, he treats us to the most exuberant finale you will witness in a movie all year.