sat 21/10/2017

LFF 2017: Blade of the Immortal / Redoubtable - Samurai slasher versus the Nouvelle Vague | reviews, news & interviews

LFF 2017: Blade of the Immortal / Redoubtable - Samurai slasher versus the Nouvelle Vague

LFF 2017: Blade of the Immortal / Redoubtable - Samurai slasher versus the Nouvelle Vague

Interminable slaughter from Takashi Miike, and Godard deconstructed

Death becomes him: Manji (Takuya Kimura, left) in 'Blade of the Immortal'

This is the 100th feature film by Takashi Miike, Japan’s fabled maestro of sex, horror and ultra-violent Yakuza flicks, and here he has found his subject in Hiroake Samura’s Blade of the Immortal manga comics. Manji (Takuya Kimura) is a veteran Samurai haunted by the cruel murder of his sister Machi, but saved from death himself by the “bloodworms” which were fed to him by a mysterious veiled crone and have rendered him immortal. If he loses a hand or is hacked by a sword, the worms speedily patch him up again.

Fifty years after Machi’s death, Manji embarks on a new quest to avenge the murder of the family of Rin, a young girl who reminds him uncannily of his lost sister (they’re both played by Hana Sugisaki). This brings him into violent conflict with Anotsu (Sôta Fukushi), a ruthless and androgynous warrior whose crew, the Itto-ryu, aim to wipe out the boring old guard of Samurais, personified by Rin’s father, and establish their own merciless fighting methods instead.

All of this inevitably finds Manji engaged in a string of ferocious combat sequences, in which opponents are hacked, chopped and sliced amid a cacophony of crunching and squelching noises. Limbs and skulls are split with hideously-shaped weapons, while combatants soar through the air with ease. The tumultuous climax finds Manji and Anotsu, aided by an aerodynamic female Samurai, hacking through the army sent by the untrustworthy local shogun. The photography is exquisite and Miike has a sly line in black humour, with many deadpan asides and a charming scene when Manjii obliges another ancient warrior who’s enormously bored with his interminable life by dicing him into chunks. It's gruelling, yet strangely refreshing. ★★★★

Redoubtable

This wacky French biopic is based on Anne Wiazemsky’s autobiographical novel Un an après, in which the actress (who died last week) described her marriage to hotshot film director Jean-Luc Godard and how it all went pear-shaped during the revolutionary days of the late Sixties. Having scored hits such as À Bout de Souffle and Le Mépris and become the embodiment of the Nouvelle Vague, the always-political Godard seemingly went sailing over the edge as he found himself sucked into the 1968 protests in Paris. Director Michel Hazanavicius ridicules Godard as a pedantic, humourless zealot, relentlessly haranguing anyone within earshot about their bourgeois backsliding and loudly championing Maoism and Marxism. Contemptuous of friends and opponents alike, Godard (Louis Garrel, pictured above with Stacy Martin as Anne) can’t seem to understand that he’s turning himself into a mini-Pol Pot, and matters come to a head when he starts slagging off François Mauriac for being right wing, although he’s staying with friends in Mauriac’s Côte d’Azur house at the time. Havanicius sprays his subject with acid wit – there's a delicious moment when a horrified Godard is congratulated on Le Mépris by the commander of the Paris riot police – and will delight cinéastes with several cunning pastiches of Godard’s film-making style, though it’s difficult to imagine that the venerable auteur, now 86, will see the joke. ★★★

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