it comes to hacking and slashing, Japan has long been a progressive nation.
They brought us Zatoichi the blind swordsman and followed up with this
sightless vengeance-seeker. Her sad fate is all the fault of Akemi Tachibana,
played by Meiko Kaji. However, Tachibana is not just a fierce killer. She is
also the leader of the most virtuous of the rival yakuza clans. Regardless, the
bodies pile up quickly in Teruo Ishii’s Blind
Woman’s Curse (trailer here), which screens
as part of the Japan Society’s weekend retrospective, Cruel Beauty: A Romantic Weekend with Meiko Kaji.
Curse was part of Rising Dragon historical yakuza
franchise, but you would be hard-pressed to explain how it was related to
previous films, aside from a handful of thematic commonalities, even if you
were intimately familiar with the series. Frankly, that is probably for the
best. As the film opens, Tachibana is about to slice through a rival clan, who
presumably had it coming, but she inadvertently blinds Aiko Gouda while the
young girl was trying to protect her thuggish brother. We then flashforward a
few years to see Tachibana released from prison and Gouda working as a blind
knife-thrower in a traveling sideshow.
dastardly Dobashi clan leader has been trying to instigate a war between the Tachibanas
and the Aozoras, but thus far neither has been willing to bite. However, the
tide turns in his favor when the mysterious swordswoman offers her services.
Soon, she is hunting down Tachibana’s clan sisters and carving off their dragon
tattoos. The bloody carnage rather delights the spectral black cat who accompanies
her, as well as Ushimatsu, the sideshow’s hunchback.
Curse is a wonderfully
weird cocktail of genre elements, including hints of the supernatural and
plenty of macabre stylings, but swordplay is always the first order of
business. Some touches are downright bizarre, such as Aozora, who looks like he
could feel at home in A Clock Work Orange
(which would release the following year), given his foppish western silk
shirts and distressing butt-cheek revealing loincloth.
is terrific as Tachibana, projecting as the resolute conviction and mother hen protectiveness
you would want from your yakuza leader. However, jazz singer and wife of Henry
Miller Hoki Tokuda makes an even deeper impression as the eerily unsettling
Gouda. Makoto Sato adds plenty of zest and energy as Tani, a stout-hearted
freelancer who often throws in his chips with the Tachibana Clan. Yet, even if
you try, you can’t unsee Ryôhei Uchida’s Aozora and the loincloth stuffed up
So yes, Blind
Woman’s Curse pretty much has it all. Kaji wields a sword with authority
and Ishii keeps the mayhem coming fast and furious, building up to some Grand
Guignol-worthy set pieces. That all makes it perfect for Valentine’s viewing.
Highly recommended, Blind Woman’s Curse screens
this Sunday (2/12) at the Japan Society, as part of their Meiko Kaji celebration.
Labels: Japan Society, Japanese Cinema, Meiko Kaji