classic film

Five-star cinema: ‘Lady Snowblood’

The Japanese movie that inspired ‘Kill Bill’ features a lone female assassin on the prowl.

As training montages go, there are few that can equal Lady Snowblood (1973). Yuki, the eight-year-old daughter of a murder convict and an unknown father, is being pummelled into shape by her ruthless sensei. Yuki barely flinches, whether she is being rolled down a slope while inside a barrel or dodging swordplay in the nude. It’s hardly surprising that she blossoms into a 20-year-old woman with the deadliest parasol this side of the Pacific.

Play
The trailer of ‘Lady Snowblood’.

Now known the world over as “the movie that majorly influenced Kill Bill”, Toshiya Fujita’s Japanese vendetta drama is a one-of-its-kind sensory experience. The stylised violence, stark colours, unusual camera angles and intense close-ups are proof of the inventiveness that characterised Japanese studio fare in the 1970s. Set during the Meiji era in the late 1800s and based on the manga Shurayuki-hime, Lady Snowblood is relentlessly beautiful and brutal. The vivid opening sequence is bathed in the two dominant colours in cinematographer Masaki Tamura’s palette. The crimson uniform-clad Sayo gives birth to a baby girl in a prison as the snow falls in perfectly symmetrical sheets. Sayo has managed to survive the murder of her husband, gang-rape and incarceration, and she is holding on to her miserable life just long enough to spill out the one-woman killing machine who will eventually avenge her.

Sayo and the infant Yuki.
Sayo and the infant Yuki.

Yuki (Meiko Kaji) grows up to be the assassin of her mother’s dreams, coldly and single-mindedly hunting down the killers and showing no mercy even when one of them has been reduced to penurious circumstances. Yuki uses a beggar gang to track down the murderers, and is later aided by a shaggy-haired and unkempt tabloid publisher who cheerfully informs her that he is “a dirty blackmailer”. The stoic and steely Yuki is not impressed by this pathetic attempt at flirtation.

Meiko Kaji had previously appeared in director Fujita’s soft porn and outlaw films. Fujita showcases Kaji’s angular features and almond eyes in loving close-ups, especially in the daringly choreographed action sequences. The hand-held camerawork throws whole frames out of balance, and the effect of watching a manga come to life is complete in the skewed camera angles and the colourful sets and costumes.

Yuki in ‘Lady Snowblood’.
Yuki in ‘Lady Snowblood’.
American genre specialist and pastiche prince Quentin Tarantino appropriated several moments and sequences from Lady Snowblood for the first part of his vengeance saga Kill Bill (2003). Taken from Lady Snowblood are the character of the lone female outlaw cutting a bloody swathe across the country, the division of the plot into chapters, the fountains of blood that gush from the limbs of victims, and the use of the lovely song “Flower of Carnage” in the climax, which was sung by Kaji and bookends Lady Snowblood.
Play
‘Flower of Carnage’.

Some of Tarantino’s borrowings are minute, such as the moment when the killers of Sayo’s husband survey the damage in disdain. The framing is replicated in Kill Bill in the scene in which a heavily wounded Beatrix Kiddo looks up at her would-be assassins. “We have unfinished business” might be one of Kill Bill’s most quoted lines, but it was first uttered by Yuki to her second victim.

The killers survey their work in ‘Lady Snowblood’...
The killers survey their work in ‘Lady Snowblood’...
…and in ‘Kill Bill’.
…and in ‘Kill Bill’.

Unlike Kill Bill, which exists in the space between Tarantino’s ears, Lady Snowblood is set against a specific backdrop of corruption, poverty and exploitation. Yuki is not merely carrying out her mother’s mission. She is also ridding the population of some of its most venal specimens. Lady Snowblood ends in carnage, with Yuki all but dead on blood-soaked snow, but she is miraculously resurrected in the more explicitly political sequel Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance. Trapped by the police, Yuki is forcibly recruited by the vampiric boss of the secret service who wants her to break into an anarchist’s home and steal evidence that might topple the Meiji regime.

Play
‘Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance’.

Although Yuki barely reaches for her sword in the sequel, it is no less bloody. This time round, the violence is directed by the government towards its people. The sickening scenes of police torture surpass Yuki’s blood-letting in the first movie. She mostly stands by in horror as the anarchist is first brutalised and then deliberately infected with the plague-causing bacillus virus. Yuki’s hard-bitten visage often softens with pain and empathy. Faced with state-sponsored brutality and bio-terrorism, her warrior stance droops into sorrow. “I have dropped the ‘Blood’ from my name,” she tells the intelligence chief. “Then what’s left,” he sneers. A genre movie about vengeance suddenly becomes a political tract about dissent and political resistance, with the same swift elegance with which Yuki wields her trusty sword.

Meiko Kaji in ‘Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance’.
Meiko Kaji in ‘Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance’.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.