Zatōichi (2003 film)

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Zatoichi 017.jpg
Japanese theatrical release poster
Directed by Takeshi Kitano
Produced by Masayuki Mori
Tsunehisa Saitō
Screenplay by Takeshi Kitano
Story by Kan Shimozawa (novel)
Starring Beat Takeshi
Tadanobu Asano
Yui Natsukawa
Music by Keiichi Suzuki
Cinematography Katsumi Yanagishima
Edited by Takeshi Kitano
Yoshinori Ōta
Distributed by Shochiku
Office Kitano (JPN)
Miramax Films (USA)
Release date
  • September 2, 2003 (2003-09-02) (Venice)
  • September 6, 2003 (2003-09-06) (Japan)
Running time
116 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese
Box office $32,285,593[1]

Zatoichi (座頭市, Zatōichi) (released in the US as The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi) is a 2003 Japanese samurai drama and action film, directed, written, co-edited, and starring Takeshi Kitano ("Beat" Takeshi) in the eleventh film he has directed.[2] Kitano plays the role of the blind swordsman.

The film is a revival of the classic Zatoichi series of samurai film and television dramas. It premiered on September 3, 2003 at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the prestigious Silver Lion for Best Director award, and went on to numerous other awards both at home and abroad. It also stars Tadanobu Asano, Michiyo Okusu, Yui Natsukawa, Guadalcanal Taka, Daigoro Tachibana, Yuko Daike, Ittoku Kishibe, Saburo Ishikura, and Akira Emoto.


The film's plot follows a traditional theme, with Zatoichi (a blind swordsman) coming to the defense of townspeople caught up in a local yakuza gang war and being forced to pay excessive amounts of protection money. Meanwhile, Zatoichi befriends a local farmer and her gambler nephew and eventually offers his assistance to two geisha siblings (one of whom is actually a man) who are seeking revenge for the murder of their parents. The siblings are the only survivors of a robbery and massacre that was carried out on their family estate ten years ago. They soon discover the people responsible for the murders are the same yakuza wreaking havoc on the small town.

After slicing his way through an army of henchmen with his sword, Zatoichi defeats the yakuza's bodyguard, a powerful ronin, in a duel. Zatoichi later wanders into town and confronts the yakuza bosses, killing the second-in-command and blinding the elderly yakuza boss (who had been masquerading as a bumbling old waiter up until this point) after surprising him by opening his eyes. The film ends with a dance number led by noted Japanese tap dance troupe The Stripes, and Zatoichi walking down a trail and tripping over a rock, saying "Even with my eyes wide open, I can't see anything."



Kitano revealed that he was approached by others to create the film and therefore differed from his own techniques and followed the common filmmaking process in order to please them and make a pure-entertainment film.[3]

This film marks Kitano's first collaboration with composer Keiichi Suzuki, ending an eleven-year streak with Joe Hisaishi. The director said he made the decision feeling that the film needed percussion-based music and that Hisaishi is not a flexible composer, and also suggested that Hisaishi had become too expensive for him. Costumes were created by Kazuko Kurosawa.[4]


The film grossed US$23.8 million in Japan.[5] Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave Zatoichi 4 out of 5 stars.[6] Jasper Sharp of Midnight Eye praised the films as "pure cinematic magic".[7] Allan Tong of Exclaim! said, "when Zatoichi is on screen, the film erupts with brilliant fury in unforgettable action sequences".[8]



  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e
  3. ^ "Takeshi Kitano Interview". The A.V. Club. 2004-08-11. Retrieved 2015-12-13. 
  4. ^ "Midnight Eye interview: Takeshi Kitano". 2003-11-05. Retrieved 2015-12-13. 
  5. ^ Mark Schilling (May 18, 2015). "Japan Box Office: ‘Cinderella’ Wins Fourth Weekend". Retrieved May 22, 2015. 
  6. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (19 March 2004). "Zatoichi - Film - The Guardian". The Guardian. 
  7. ^ Sharp, Jasper (6 October 2003). "Midnight Eye review: Zatoichi (2003, Takeshi KITANO)". Midnight Eye. 
  8. ^ Tong, Allan (October 2003). "Zatoichi - Directed by Takeshi Kitano - TIFF Reviews -". Exclaim!. 
  9. ^ a b

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