This was originally reviewed on 09/10/17 as part of London Film Festival.
Takashi Miike’s 100th film Blade of the Immortal is concrete proof that the director has no intentions of slowing down. The usual opening credits are quite literally cut short, a blood spatter and a scream breaking through the typical cinema fare. The film opens on an astounding battle in black and white as Manji, the immortal of the title, cuts his way through at least 100 men. Think “The Bride vs. the Crazy 88”, but if it felt more tiring.
There’s a lot of bloodshed in this film, but Miike makes us feel the weight and strain of Manji’s immortality – he’s not that elegant a fighter once he gets his gruesome power (and curse), ‘bloodworms’ that stitch his wounds together. It’s far from a power fantasy – for Manji, immortality is an endless, debilitating struggle (in more ways than one – this is a very long film).
Despite all the gore and literal rivers of blood, Blade of the Immortal is filled with lush camerawork and lighting and beautiful locations, to the point where the violence really does feel transgressive – for all of two seconds before the film’s pitch black humour has you laughing with demented glee.
In other hands this film could feel overly grim, but Miike imbues it with comedy that’s as sharp as any other weapon in this film, mining comedy out of the strangest circumstances, more often than not involving severed limbs.
Despite its set up as a traditional revenge tale, Miike makes some unexpected detours, and takes particular care to give detailed agency and some semblance of sympathy to almost every character we see (minus one or two total monsters).
A gruelling, blood-soaked and often darkly comic samurai epic with a huge body count, Blade of the Immortal is an outrageous delight.
CAST: Takuya Kimura, Hana Sugisaki, Sôta Fukushi
DIRECTOR: Takashi Miike
WRITERS: Hiroaki Samura (manga); Tetsuya Oishi (screenplay)
SYNOPSIS: Manji, a highly skilled samurai, becomes cursed with immortality after a legendary battle. Haunted by the brutal murder of his sister, Manji knows that only fighting evil will regain his soul.