Lady Snowblood

1973 revenge movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: After scoundrels rape her and kill her family, a woman gives birth to a daughter who is then trained to get revenge.

"The vagina goddess has blessed us with a visit."

Narratively, this makes some really odd choices. Our heroine has to go after bad guys one-by-one, just like Beatrix Kiddo in the Kill Bill movies, stories heavily influenced by this. But after it's over, when you stop and think about what she actually accomplished, it's a little disappointing. You just wish Snowblood could have sliced off a few more arms or decapitated a few more outmatched bad guys. A character who pops in around the middle of the movie feels superfluous, even at the end when you discover how he's connected to the whole thing. There's a really talky, broken-up exposition, and some completely unnecessary narration.

But with a movie like Lady Snowblood, the plot doesn't really matter all that much. A movie like this is all about creating a cool character--in this case, a cool heroine--and telling that character's story with a whole lot of style. This does just that. If you like your movies with a generous helping of violence, the blood in this one doesn't dick around. As with shane-movies favorite Lone Wolf and Cub series, this blood sprays from wounds in exaggerated but strangely beautiful ways. Limbs are lost, characters are cut in half, and dead characters lie in waves that are more blood than salt water. There's a terrific scene near the beginning where the title character dispatches some poor guy's in the snow, and there's just something about snow and blood that is so beautiful. And there's one scene where the withdrawing of Snowblood's phallic symbol that is more realistic than I've ever seen it before. I can't figure out how they got the shot, but I have a guess: They actually stabbed the guy.

More beauty: A shot during the obligatory training sequence where young Snowblood kills a bunch of grass against a backdrop of angry waves. The swooning camera after the opening percussive and synth belch tidbit where we get a look at a prison and its occupants, cries timed with breathing, and a shot of a blizzard on the other side of the wooden bars. A mill rape with percussive thump-thump accompaniment. Blood dripping from a sword, fighting to be seen after a smoke bomb's gone off. Banzo laying in the rocks with those bloody waves. Blood raining from a hanged character. That gorgeously dangerous umbrella.

I can't explain the odd chapter titles or some jarring camera work during some scenes. Or why the music gets all jazzy at one point. Or why an important part of Snowblood's training involves rolling down a hill in a barrel. But this movie is so good at creating calms both before and after the storms, and despite some narrative flaws, I enjoyed the character and Toshiya Fujita's style.

This was the second movie picked for the little Criterion movie thing my brother and I are doing. Let me know if you want in. You won't be allowed to pick any movies, but you can watch the movies at roughly the same time we do. Our next one: The Pornographers.


Leslie Lim said...

I read your blog.I thought it was great.. Hope you have a great day. God bless.


Anonymous said...

13. kung fu movie without kung fu. there were some beautifully shot scenes but there was no real cohesion. some of the subplots were silly. i can see how tarantino would be influenced by this but his stuff is so much better. motor psycho that i recommended is an infinitely better revenge motif, that makes so much more sense.

Shane said...

See? Leslie Lim is a devoted reader who both thinks my blog is "great" and wants me to have a nice day...

It's not really a kung-fu movie though. It's a samurai movie. Different genre, and this had the twist of having a female protagonist. I'm not sure if that was revolutionary in 1973 or not, at least in this genre. Of course, that's not enough to make it a great movie. It was kind of a mess. Or as the kids say, kind of a hot mess.

I saw Motor Psycho Sunday. It was ok, but it didn't feel as Russ Meyerish as it should have.