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DVD Review by David Blackwell


disc 1- ZATOICHI (116 minutes), Behind-The-Scenes Special, video interviews, previews

disc 2- SONATINE (94 minutes), Beat Takeshi Interview, Into and Outro By Quentin Tarantino, Previews

RELEASE DATE: 11-9-2004


ANALYSIS: Takeshi Kitano is a genius in his own way. He has such a way of directing movies and acting in them (the guy doesn't have to say much to tell you about what is his character is doing or thinking). ZATOICHI is a 21st update of the blind samurai movie series. Zatoichi comes into a village that is being held hostage by rival gangs who are keeping the locals poor. The sword fights are excellent. You get to feel for the various characters including the ronin who becomes a bodyguard for one of the gangs because he wants to have the money to cure what ails his wife. Everything seems to work for this movie from the comedy relief moments to the tap dance finale. ZATOICHI is definitely one of my favorite films of 2004.

SONATINE, on the other hand, is slower and more brutal than ZATOICHI. The movie is filled with times of the Yakuza doing regular things you see everyone else do outside their jobs before you get hit by a brief moment of brutal violence before thing calms down again. You start to feel for the Yakuza characters in between the brief moments of violence that stick with you.

VIDEO/AUDIO: Both movies are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Details are sharp and the images are clean. Colors and blacks are good. Colors on ZATOICHI are bright even though it goes against the look the cinematographer was going for. No visible artifacts can be seen. The presentations of both movies are great.

ZATOICHI can be heard in English or Japnese 5.1 Dolby Digital with the option of English (or English captions for the hearing impaired), Spanish, or French. I like the original Japanese language track better because some of the voices for English dubbing just sound horrible. Dialogue can be heard clearly, it is easy to distinguish music and sound effects during the movie. SONATINE can be heard in it's original Japanese or French (both in 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround) with the option of English or Spanish subtitles. Dialogue and sounds on SONATINE can be heard clearly while music is sparsely used. It's not a very dynamic sound mix, but the dialogue is the important thing for this movie.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Previews (for Hero, Finding Neverland)are featured on both discs and you can use chapter advance to skip through them.

The extras on the ZATOICHI disc are quite informative. The Behind-The-Scenes Special is 40 minutes long and takes one through the press conference for the movie before filming started, the production itself (with lots of behind-the-scenes footage), rehersal for the tap dance finale, and the film getting rave reviews when it was shown at the Venice Film Festival. Kitano likes to change things during filming as he comes up with new ideas, but yet everyone is at ease during the filming of the movie.

Also included on the disc are video interviews with Katsumi Yanagishima (cinematographer) talking about the use of silver stock to soften the colors in the movie and telling Kitano what things weren't feasible to do as Kitano keeps everyone on their feet by the changes he makes during filming, Norihiro Isoda (Production Designer) who talks about the construction of Oume's house and redressing the village to make it seem bigger, Kazuko Kurosawa (Costume Supervisor) saying she puts the ideas a director has into the costumes and talks about the various things that went into designing the movie's costumes (the use of different colors for different groups of characters), and Tatsumi Nikamoto (Master Swordsman) talking about Kitano wanted to do sword fights differently (and you see some footage of the actors being trained to use the swords).

The only extras on the SONATINE disc are an a Conversation with Takeshi Kitano and Intro and Outro pieces by Quentin Taratino from the original US VHS release. The Conversation With Takeshi Kitano has Kitano giving his thought's on Tarantino's films and glad that QT has taste by releasing his lost masterpiece (Sonatine) to the US, the violence in Sonatine, the interest real Yakuza has taken in Kitano for making Yakuza movies, and how he loves editing while saying acting is the hardest thing to do. The Intro and Outro by Quentin Taratino was originally featured on the VHS release. QT wears an ugly bowling shirt while his image floats up and down on the screen as he talks about Sonatine and Takeshi Kitano.

FINAL ANALYSIS: ZATOICHI is fun while SONATINE is brutal. Miramax has done a good job with packaging both films together. You get to see a difference of style and the DVD is worth buying because you are getting two movies for the price of one.

this review (3.93) is (c)11-10-2004 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com

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