Blade of the Immortal (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

A talented samurai is cursed by a witch to live forever following a battle for the ages.  Haunted by the past, he accepts to assist a young girl with her quest for revenge.  As he goes through with his mission, he discovers a few things about the world and himself.

Based on the manga by Hiroaki Samura and written by Tatsuya Oishi, Blade of the Immortal is the 100th film directed by Takashi Miike.  Here a masterpiece of created where the story is told almost like an old school samurai film, starting in black and white even and then adding color when the film reaches the main part of its story.  This story is developed very much like the aforementioned samurai films with a touch of old westerns, horror, and comedy in the way only Miike can do.  This mix of genre with the director’s signature tonal shifts creates a rich adventure in which a man finds that his curse may be a gift or perhaps his gift may be a curse.  Miike puts something on the screen that works even though it does feel a bit long, the longer stretches created by extended battles and long sequences are clearly a wanted aspect of the film and follow in the footsteps of the genres the film plays in.

Playing the tortured lead Manji, the Immortal of the title, is actor Takuya Kimura who gives a performance fitting of his character.  He’s strong when he needs to be and lets his emotions show occasionally.  Balancing his warrior or samurai toughness is Hana Sugisaki who plays both his long dead sister Machi and the young girl looking for revenge Rin Asano.  She gives a very wide-eyed performance for most of the film while showing determination and a touch of courage/insanity.  Playing the lead villain is Sota Fukushi as Anotsu Kagehisa, leader of the Itto-ryu, a character who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Fukushi plays him a bit cold which makes it hard to tell if the character needs to be a cold-hearted bastard or if the actor is simply not showing much emotion.  Either way, it works for the character and the film, thus making his less emotional portrayal still fit in.

The film not only relies on performances and battles, but on what is on the screen.  The cinematography by Nobuyasu Kita is stunning.  From the opening battle to the final battle, the images speak more than the characters at times.  The way he frames and shoots the battle sequences and the rest of the film gives them character, and connects them further with the films of yore that the film is placing itself with.

Blade of the Immortal is a beautiful film with fantastic sword fights and battles.  It connects with a lot of past films in terms of style and substance, as well as how it’s developed and shot.  It does have a few sequences and scenes that run on a bit too long, but overall, the film is beautiful and a fun watch with its battles and epic scenes.

Fantasia International Film Festival ran from July 13th to August 2nd.