Comica Obscura Marathon: Review: Shurayukihime (Lady Snowblood, 1973)

The final film in the Comica Obscura Marathon is some great female driven revenge!

Screenplay By: Norio Osada
Directed By: Toshiya Fujita

The obvious comparison to Shurayukihime is either Kill Bill: Vol. 1 or Kill Bill: Vol. 2. The comparison exists because The Kill Bill films are the Shurayukihime film, and its sequel, minus a few key ingredients. The Kill Bill films were empty exercises in style and possibly the best example of the misogyny that plagues Quentin Tarantino’s career. The character Uma Thurman portrays isn’t a strong woman, she is a woman acting like a man. Yuki Kashima is quite different as no matter how much blood she sheds she is decidedly a woman and acts decidedly like a woman. She still kills, she still has an agenda of revenge, but at the same time she displays feminine qualities and attributes in a very strong manner.

A key sequence in establishing this in my mind was when Yuki is training as a young girl with her master, Priest Dôkai. Her master is harsh on her, for all intents and purposes he is harsh on Yuki because he wants to create a killing machine just as much as he wants to beat her feminine qualities out of existence. At one point she attempts to use a jump that is very reliant on the idea of female grace to avoid his strike. She does not succeed and is disrobed as a result. The film quickly moves away from the disrobing and ahead in Yuki’s life where once again it appears her master is overpowering her feminine fighting style. This time, however, her light steps and her graceful moves however prove to be a match for Dôkai’s blunt force. It becomes instantly clear that the director has not crafted Yuki as a woman acting like a man. Instead he has allowed her strength to come from her very femininity.

Another key moment in Shurayukihime as having something positive to say about the power of a woman comes in the form of Yuki’s birth. Her mom dies and creates her daughter’s life mission out of what is possibly the most defining aspect of womanhood, the ability to bring life into the world. Shurayukihime is tinged with moments like the birth scene, moments that very quietly speak about the power of being a woman and how when she needs to a woman can use her body in many different ways to accomplish her goals. And by body I’m not just referring to sexual appeal, but also to the brain power that Yuki shows in her dogged determination to seek revenge.

With my pretentious ramblings and all the feminist claptrap out of the way, what is it that makes Shurayukihime so gosh darn awesome? It’s a grimy picture, and it shows its dirt lovingly. The direction is rough around the edges in all the best possible ways. The colors are dulled so as to make the fake blood look even faker and thus even more awesome. The kills are quick and to the point, and the film very astutely leaves them behind in hasty fashion. Shurayukihime doesn’t linger on moments, on character, on anything. As a result the audience isn’t given much time to think about the places where the film does falter. The brisk pace, the thin characters, and the stark minimalism that the filmmaking is couched in all contribute to making Shurayukihime a wonderful experience.

Part revenge film, part feminist critique, part exploitation grime, all words that fail to adequately describe the awesomeness that is Shurayukihime. The roughness of the filmmaking only helps the film to be as engaging as it is. Shurayukihime is one of those films that represent all that is wonderful about dirty, grimy, stark filmmaking. Skip the overblown, vacuous, and misogynistic Kill Bill films and go straight to a healthy dose of real 70s exploitation awesomeness where a woman can be an awesome killer and a woman at the same time.

Go read what Edgar had to say at Between The Seats.




10 responses to “Comica Obscura Marathon: Review: Shurayukihime (Lady Snowblood, 1973)

  1. Oh Bill, you have unfortunately painted yourself in a corner with this review. The rebuttal is going to be rough, my friend, very rough…

  2. I think I’ll be ok, I am Irish after all…

  3. Pingback: Comica Obscura Marathon: Rebuttal: Shurayukihime (Lady Snowblood, 1973) | Bill's Movie Emporium

  4. Once you watch this film, you definitely see the shortcomings of a director like Tarantino, who only has the talents to spruce up a previous, better film.

  5. I’m in agreement obviously, although I wouldn’t mind him sprucing up other films if he added an ingredient to the sprucing that differentiated it from the original.

  6. Great… so if I’m a woman I have to wear a beautiful kimono and hide my sword in a feminine umbrella and be always lovely and delicate, I cannot go on fighting in a Bruce Lee suit and fight with a samurai sword acting all rude and cool because I would be acting like a man. Thanks for the information. I will consider that in my next revenge rampage.

    By the way, Kill Bill vol 1 and 2 are definitely NOT the Shurayukihime movies and does not pretend to copy it. Tarantino uses glimpses from Shurayukihime along with many other movies such as the Kurosawa like ronin genre, Chinese kung-fu movies, and spaghetti westerns (which are actually based in Kurosawa movies) just to mention some, because he is a fan of those films and where the films he watched as a kid. Kill Bill is not a copy but a tribute to all does films and many other movies and clichés too. Also, not only the character of The Bride is based in Yuki, but the character of O’ren Isiii, and if you observe O’ren do keeps part of the attitude and aesthetics of Yuki.

    On the other hand, Shurayukihime is indeed a beautiful and awesome movie, and Meiko Kaji is a very talented actress and singer.

    And if you want to talk about misogyny, the manga of Shurayukihime in which the movies are based while is indeed a very interesting and good comic book, it pictures the main character showing boobs as most as possible completely out of context just to please male readers, which is not surprising coming from Japan, a very misogynist country.

  7. You can act however you like when you go on a rampage. However, as far as movies go, there is a trend, these days Tarantino is one of the worst offenders, that women can not be feminine and be bad ass. I do not like the Tarantino approach of removing femininity from the equation and then proclaiming it to be a great effort in female empowerment.

    As far as Tarantino ripping off this movie for Kill Bill, I stand by my statement, because it’s not an opinion but fact. The problem I have is that Tarantino doesn’t pay homage or do anything interesting with the elements he rips off, he just lets them sit there in his movie just the same as they were when they were first done. Jee-woon Kim is a great example of a director who takes from many film sources, but he does interesting things with the content he borrows. His films don’t just put the same content that had previously been done on the screen a second time. Tarantino does this, and that’s one of the many reasons why I find him to be a hack of a director.

  8. Great second paragraph Bill! That’s Tarantino in a nutshell.

  9. Pretty much Antares, but like usual we are in the minority on this issue. 🙂

  10. Reblogged this on omen faces.

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