Eric Wolfram's Writing, Review of The Princess Blade

The Princess Blade

Directed by Junji Sakamoto

The Princess Blade is a modern swordplay action movie full of traditional sameri honor and values. It is part of the 45th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival's Midnight Series. The film is about a tough, repressed and exiled Princess on a journey to avenge her mother's death. Along the way, she relearns how to express her emotions.

The film is a visual treat with stunning cinimographic compositions. The story is mostly told, not with words, but with image and action. And when dialog does happen, there are always big, white, easy-to-read subtitles. So for an English speaking audience, this film is highly watchable.

Throughout the action, ample sword fighting and violence, the princess fends off many foes. At times the special effects, and her escapes from death, are exaggerated and typically unbelievable. At times, however, I could almost feel the sword in my gut.

The moment when the Princess needs help the most, we are introduced to the her love interest; a sensitive and troubled, and suitably dreamy, young man named Takashi. She finds refuge in his techno commands center basement, where vague references to terrorism arrive on Takashi's email. Although this terrorist subplot is never fully developed nor resolved, Takashi is obviously struggling with past deeds. Still, he finds the time to help the Princess heal and he finds the compassion to help her learn how to feel again.

In addition to the story, the film boasts beautiful artistic designs and photography. The camera is always moving to the right place -- across wide dark forests scapes with pine needles in the foreground -- to big green lakes in morning sunlight. Expect high production values and professional excellence when you watch The Princess Blade. Expect visual symbols. For instance, a close up of the Princess's tiny music box charm necklace, which belonged to her mother, comes to represent the loss of her mother and her journey and motivation to revenge.

However, the movie indulges itself into long musical montages of the Princess and Takashi eating and working together. There is visceral comedy, as Takashi feeds the princess maggots for protein. He gives her a white dress. And the persistent deep voiced villain is well cast and scary.

The music, the underscore, follows the emotions of the story closely, almost like an annoying echo. When the Princess is grieving, the music wails. When she is happy, the music floods forward in sweet song. In such a way, the music attempts to force what I should be feeling, like the music from classic melodrama from the past. At times, it almost doesn't feel appropriate from a movie made today.

All in all, The Princess Blade has it's appeal, and it will be enjoyed by people who are looking for that late night action sword fight movie. The Princess Blade is not what I came to the San Francisco International Film Festival to see, however, it is another non-authentic genera film and it doesn't give me new insights into the Japanize culture.

Country: Japan
Year: 2001
Run Time: 92 minutes
Cast: Hideaki Ito, Yumiko Shaku, Shiro Sano, Yoichi Numata, Kyusaku Shimada, Maki Yoko
Producer: Taka Ichise
Editor: Hirohide Abe
Cinematographer: Taro Kawazu
Screenwriter: Shinsuke Sato

This Film Was Viewed at the 45th San Francisco International Film Festival

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