If there’s one thing I’ve continually come to love about Japanese cinema, it’s how they can create something utterly poetic of what many see as a static, mundane or spent medium. Whether it be animation (and let’s pick every Western film critic’s favourite buzz-names, Mamoru Oshii or Hayao Miyazaki [nothing against either director BTW, but there are plenty of other brilliant examples of Japanese animation out there that deserve some love and attention]), or live action martial arts (again, I’ll go mainstream with citing Kurosawa here, again, with no disrespect to him, as his movies are brilliant), outside the awesome fluff and pop-art execution, there are some amazing gems that just come out of nowhere. While the West was late to the party with Kuro-Obi /Black Belt (including yours truly), it is such a beautiful and almost poetic vision of traditional karate during Japan’s shift to totalitarianism that it deserves all the attention it keeps on receiving. For those interested, here’s a trailer:
I’ll leave the discourse to the IMDB entry on it (click here), and while I’d love to fire across a Wikipedia link, I can’t seem to find it in the English version (found it in the Japanese version though). Where I will wax lyrical is in the absolutely stunning form of the three main karate-ka.
My god, words can’t do justice how superb their form is, or of the beauty of the karate in action. There are no wire tricks, CG or other random silliness. The film’s is quiet, reflective and stoic, not unlike the process of learning and performing your favourite kata. The lead actors are actually martial artists first and foremost (and if the IMDB entry is to be taken as accurate, very high ranking ones at that), and thankfully the film is centered around this precept well – the characters don’t have a whole lot of dialogue, and they leave the acting to the supporting cast.
I highly, highly recommend you give this one a look. While I’m not sure about availability of this film in other countries, in Australia Madman Entertainment have it available via their website under their Eastern Eye label, and most good DVD retailers should be able to get it in for you. As far as I know, it hasn’t been murdered with a terrible English language dub at this stage, so you’ll have to do the right thing watch it in Japanese with English subtitles, as you should be anyway 😉