It has been a frightfully long time since i put up something here, the reason for that is that i’m currently writing a series of posts that are probably the biggest ones to be put on this site to date and it has been taking up a bit of my time. To be honest though so has Dragon Age: Inquisition…
Anywho, i recently watched the excellent Criterion release of the film in the title and figured it would be suitable for a review.
Watch as Lady Snowblood slashes her way to bloody vengeance. That’s the joke.
What struck me most about these two movies was how striking at times the imagery is. With a vibrant colour palette, dramatic use of lighting, impressionistic sets, and some wonderful widescreen compositions there was clearly a lot more thought put into some of the production.
With the first film’s silly concept of Snowblood being born into a quest for vengeance being told with a completely straight face, every slash of her blade being punctuated with gallons of red paint, and the cheesy 70’s soundtrack it really seems that the film makers kept a sense of humour about the whole thing.
Other than the visuals the most memorable aspect of the film is Meiko Kaji’s performance as the titular lady of vengeance. While i will say her acting skills are not extraordinary (she’s decent, though nothing special) what she does have is plenty of charisma, and it is her charisma that makes up for the short comings in the two films. I can ignore the lack of polish in the camera work or fight the choreography because she’s so fun to watch.
The sequel for the most part bears the brunt of my negative feelings towards the series. Whereas Lady Snowblood seemed fun Love Song of Vengeance is a notably much darker movie. The violence that was inherently silly in the original becomes less so when it depicts brutal torture scene after brutal torture scene, coupled with an pornographic like sex scene and less flamboyant production design, the sequel just plain old doesn’t have the same delightful energy that the original has in spades.
Also Love Song of Vengeance is an example (to me at least) that the sequel to an origin story won’t necessarily be a more interesting story by default. As the character of Lady Snowblood is solely characterised by the fact that she was born into a quest for vengeance. Removing that from the narrative (since she succeeds in her goal) has the end result of the character floundering to find purpose. Toshiya Fujita, his writers Kazuo Uemura and Kazuo Koike try to turn the Lady into a hired hitman (ala Lone Wolf and Cub) but that is thrown out the window with contrived plotting and double crosses.
Lastly the one and only thing keeping Lady Snowblood from true greatness is that aforementioned lack of polish. Shaky hand held shots unfortunately form the majority of the cinematography in Lady Snowblood, this along with horrid film stock and cheap equipment (lenses, tripods, lights, etc) bring a rushed feeling to the production along with an overwhelming sense that this was shot on a shoestring budget. Granted this is half the appeal of these grindhouse like flicks, but the moments of brilliant and striking compositions hint at the filmmakers desire of wanting to elevate the production to higher levels, only to be brought down by lack of time and money.
Love Song of Vengeance thankfully has more polish than its predecessor which helps iron out some of its many wrinkles.
Lady Snowblood and Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance form an at times a charming duology that while showing flashes of visual brilliance is still marred by cheap production values, and bad writing. Out of the two Lady Snowblood is the easiest to recommend for its fun atmosphere, and cheesy revenge story goodness. Love Song of Vengeance displays more polish but is brought down by its own sleaziness and unfortunate penchant to go a bit overboard with its violence, thus becoming a bit to sadistic for me to enjoy fully.
OUT OF FIVE
LADY SNOWBLOOD: LOVE SONG OF VENGEANCE
OUT OF FIVE