Your Favorite Catgirl’s recent flirtation with all things “Martial Art-y” continues here at the ol’ Litterbox with a review of director Victor Vu’s 2012 swordplay fantasy “Thiên Mệnh Anh Hùng” aka “Blood Letter”. With the recent release of this one on Region 2 DVD over in Germany, unfortunately without those ever so handy English subtitles this wee Catgirl needs, I honestly had begun to despair ever getting a look at it any time soon. But…. the Wuxia Fairies have deigned to smile on a certain wee “Warrior Princess wanabee”, and… thanks to an admittedly suspicious All region, supposedly Chinese made, DVD… that is no longer the case! Yay!!
Our synopsis? How’s about this: “Adapted from a popular novel by Bùi Anh Tấn, the film begins with a dying man delivering a mysterious young boy at the shore of a remote mountain monastery. Scared and alone, the boy grows to manhood under the care and martial arts tutelage of the one lone monk who is the sole caretaker for the lonely remote temple. Twelve years later, Nguyen Vu discovers his true identity, that he is the single living descendant of the nobleman Nguyen Trai, advisor to the late king, who was beheaded, along with the rest of his family, when he was wrongfully implicated in the murder of his liege. Two Eunuchs from the Royal Court learn the truth and when they try to escape are hunted down. One of the eunuchs writes his dying testimony in blood before he dies and this “Blood Letter” then disappears. Nguyen Vu then embarks on a quest to find this letter so that he may clear his grandfather’s name. Along the way he meets two sisters who are also on a quest to carry out vengeance against the Royal Court and the evil Empress Dowager.”
Sounds all epic and “kung-fu-licious”!! Yep… this wee Catgirl’s hooked. But then… your truly is a real Wuxia movie nut… So should this one also be on your “must see” list too? Well… before spending those hours scouring the Internet for a copy of this one, why not let a certain crazy Catgirl tell you all about it first?
Pssst!! That’s your subtle invite to “Read On”…. C’mon… You know ya wanna!!
Whew!! Well it certainly took me long enough to get this one written, but here we go with your Favorite Catgirl’s impressions of the new Chambara drama by cult director Takeshi Miike, “13 Assassins”. Flashing swords, bloody death, and a brave stand of a few brave men against seemingly impossible odds…..
Our synopsis? How about this: “The year is 1844. A vicious nobleman rapes and kills with impunity, shielded from punishment by virtue of his political connections. Although the era of the samurai is fading and coming to an end, one honest government official is still able to enlist the aid of thirteen honorable swordsmen in secrecy. Their mission? Nothing less than to assassinate this sadistic lord whatever the cost, before he can seize even more power and become untouchable…. above anyone’s power to keep in check and a threat that would poison the nation’s very soul. With time running out and against impossible odds, these assassins lay a deadly trap for the lord and his army of bodyguards in a booby-trapped village of death, culminating in one of the bloodiest, muddiest sword-fights ever put to film.”
Sound a bit “Seven Samurai” to you too? Yep… this one seems to want to channel the spirit of that old Kurosawa film and lots of other 70′s Chambara classics. You know the ones… lots of stern faced Japanese guys (and even a few girls..) facing the idea of inescapable death to achieve Honor and restore Justice. There’s something primal and heroic about that…. and it resonates through the Chambara film in a way that only the best Spaghetti Westerns ever seemed to truly understand. Mind you… most of the best of the Spaghetti Westerns were even adapted from these old Japanese swordplay films. But… at their heart, both genres were about staring Death right in the face without flinching and going for it full on… even knowing you probably wouldn’t succeed.
So does this one have the “warrior spirit”? One way to find out, and that’s to follow this crazy Catgirl on a journey to Feudal Japan, where perhaps Death came easy… and life was sometimes cheap… but Honor and Duty were priceless treasures beyond value.