Sunday, January 29, 2017

Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance

Based on the manga series by Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura, Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance is the sequel to 1973’s Lady Snowblood in which the titular character is being forced to kill for the government after being captured by the authorities. Directed by Toshiya Fujita and screenplay by Kiyohide Ohara and Norio Osada, the film follows a woman being forced to kill for those she despises as she tries to find a way to fight back as Meiko Kaji reprises the titular role. Also starring Juzo Itami, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, Yoshio Harada, Shin Kishida, and Toru Abe. Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance is a gripping and mesmerizing film from Toshiya Fujita.

Set a decade after the events of the first film to 1906 following the Russo-Japanese war the year before, the film follows Lady Snowblood who has been captured by authorities where a secret police official orders her to kill an anarchist who has documents that would threaten Japanese society and expose the corruption of the government. While the film’s screenplay is more straightforward than its predecessor in terms of its narrative, it is more about the political and social landscape that Lady Snowblood has encountered as her years of killing and thirst for vengeance has forced to see what Japan has become in the final years of Meiji’s reign as Japan’s emperor.

There is a lot of layers in the script where it play into that period and Lady Snowblood kind of being taken aback by these changes that has not done much for the poor who are forced to live in slums. While Lady Snowblood would reluctantly work undercover for the government in order to get immunity by pretending to be a maid for the anarchist. She would realize what is at stake as she is forced to get a closer look into what is going on as the fate of so much is in her hands. Especially with those involved in the anarchist movement whom the government want to silence as their backs are being pushed against the wall.

Toshiya Fujita’s direction definitely bears some stylistic elements yet it is more restrained visually in favor of playing up the political tone of the film. Notably as much of the film is shot in rural areas including slums and streets where the middle class and poor live though it’s all shot on soundstages and locations recreated to look poor. While there are some wide shots in the film, Fujita would favor more intimate shots with its close-ups and medium shots that includes a lot of usage in the former in some dramatic moments including a love-making scene involving the anarchist and his wife. The usage of hand-held cameras and some long tracking shots help play into some of the action where Fujita, with the aid of sword choreographer Kunishiro Hayashi, would shoot things from Lady Snowblood’s perspective in the way the fighting is presented. There are also moments that are quite chilling and somber as it relates to the plight of the less fortunate including a sequence that would serve as the catalyst for the film’s bloody and intense climax. Overall, Fujita creates a compelling yet exhilarating film about a woman being forced to kill for an evil government.

Cinematographer Tatsuo Suzuki does excellent work with the film‘s colorful cinematography that play into the beauty of the locations around the forest and oceans as well as some of the scenes set at night with its usage of low-key lights and shadows. Editor Osamu Inoue does brilliant work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts and other rhythmic cuts play into the action as well as some of the suspense. Production designer Yukio Higuchi does fantastic work with the look of the lavish homes of the government official as well as the more quaint home of the anarchist and the ragged home of a farmer who would meet Lady Snowblood early in the film. The sound work of Noboru Kamikura is superb for some of the sound effects in the fighting as well as the way guns sound and the scenes set in the slums to play into its horrific state. The film’s music by Kenjiro Hirose is amazing for its mixture of traditional Japanese woodwind music and orchestral flourishes with some 70s style rock to play into the action and some of the drama.

The film’s phenomenal cast include Rinichi Yamamoto as a police inspector trying to nab Lady Snowblood for her crimes and Koji Nanbara as a bodyguard for one of the government officials. Toru Abe is terrific as a government minister in Terauichi Kendo as a man that has a lot of power as he tries to maintain some aspect of the status quo while Shin Kashida is fantastic as the secret police leader Seishiro Kikui who would force Lady Snowblood to do an assignment in exchange for immunity as a way to maintain his role in the government. Yoshio Harada is superb as Shusuke as a farmer who would find and heal Lady Snowblood early in the film as he would later reveal a much bigger role in the second half of the film as someone who is quite radical with his own disdain for the government.

Kazuko Yoshiyuki is wonderful as Aya Tokunaga as the anarchist’s wife who tries to maintain some stability in her home as she also carries a secret relating to her role in the movement. Juzo Itami is amazing as Ransui Tokunaga as a famed anarchist who has seen a lot of chaos in Japan as he has evidence that could topple the government as he also copes with the severity of what could happen to him. Finally, there’s Meiko Kaji in an incredible performance as the titular character as a woman lost in her journey of vengeance where she is captured and forced to carry an assignment as she finds herself in a new surrounding that is unfamiliar where Kaji really maintains that restraint but also a gracefulness in the way she deals with her enemies.

Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance is a phenomenal film from Toshiya Fujita that features a remarkable performance from Meiko Kaji in the titular role. Along with a great supporting cast and a riveting screenplay, the film is a fascinating action-thriller that play into a woman dealing with the status quo trying to impose their own new ideas in a chaotic world. In the end, Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance is a sensational film from Toshiya Fujita.

Toshiya Fujita Films: (Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo) - Lady Snowblood - (Kaerazaru hibi) - (The Miracle of Joe Petrel)

© thevoid99 2017

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