By Wesley James Young
So I recently had the privilege of seeing Lady Snowblood and Lady Snowblood 2 at the AFI Theater in Silver Spring, MD. It was a double feature of two movies I had never seen but had heard great things about. Went to a Japanese restaurant beforehand and had a good amount of sake. A great night overall. As to the movies, see below.
Lady Snowblood is a movie that exceeds every expectation I formed for every scene. Woman gives birth in a prison and my first thought is guard rape. That turned out to be way off. Is she going to kill that guy first chance she gets–heck no. Is she a soulless killing machine like mommy intended–no. Is human blood thick as oil based paint—apparently. Ok that last one did not exceed expectations but I needed the rhetorical questions for symmetry.
If you want the plot of the movie, it is this: Yuki is the daughter of a woman whose husband and child were murdered by four crooks shortly before raping her. Well three of them did since the fourth was a woman and I am not sure she did anything but watch with glee. The mother killed one before getting thrown in jail. Yuki is pledge from birth to be her mother’s vengeful demon and kill the other three.
The recurring theme of the movie is beautiful death. Yuki is an achingly beautiful killing machine, the sets are often tranquil scenes that get soaked in blood, and snow tinged in blood bookend various scenes. The cinematography is full of great closes-ups of Yuki’s face with the fire burning within, 180 degree shots of fight scenes, and a pacing that never allows one to be bored.
The best part of the movie is a pulse pounding swordfight with some cops in a closed down restaurant where Tokyo’s finest become finely sliced meat. All preceded by the distraction of a flying umbrella.
The weirdest part is a training scene where a 13 year old Yuki gets into swordfight with her trainer and her clothes come off. Then he cuts her and she sucks the wound.
All in all a fantastic movie that Quinten Tarantino definitely gold mined for Kill Bill. The soundtrack, costuming, and chapter structure are all stolen from this movie—as all great artists do. I don’t believe in stars but I think you should see it. Especially if you like a good swordfight.
Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance
Yuki returns to the silver screen to somehow walk the earth after dying in the previous film. No she is not a ghost. Wikipedia swears she did not die but I remember her being dead. The movie takes place 10 years after the previous and Yuki has been on the run the whole time. The Japanese police spend the first 10 minutes or more getting slaughtered by her till ennui sets in and she allows herself to be put on trial and sent to the gallows. Then the head of the Secret Police, who looks like a bond villain, springs her from the hangman and convinces her to steel a secret document from a dissident with no leverage over her. This ends as well as you would expect. The events of this paragraph was less exciting than they sound. This movie was less exciting than any description I could give of it. Somehow infecting a guy with bubonic plague, two torture scenes, and a skinamax grade sex scenes failed to get my blood moving. The movie ran late, I was bored, and my ride was waiting so I could not finish this invitation to check my watch. The only way I could recommend seeing this movie is would a couple of friends, some booze, a lot of booze, and a willingness to make fun of this movie.
Weirdest thing about this movie was every other cop in Japan seemed to be dressed like Sherlock Holmes. Was this an actual thing the Japanese did? Were they ring to compensate for their envy of the west?
Best part was the absence of a Lady Snowblood 3.