Sunday, February 18, 2007

Hanzo 2

by Charlie ParsleyA reader might come away with the impression that the Hanzo samurai films give a misogynistic treatment towards women and excessively violent interactions among the men. However, messages throughout the film suggest the contrary. The men that cross Hanzo are physically assaulted as punishment for their transgressions. Hanzo explains that a short period of pain is better than a long period of imprisonment and the scars they will carry from it will toughen them. They agree with him and thank him for this. The women are spared from such physical disfigurement, but they must also be punished for their wrongdoing. Hanzo’s torture for them provides pleasure as well as pain and does not result in disfiguring scars. Once again, his victims are thankful to him for this consideration. Hanzo does not act for his own satisfaction as James Bond would do, he is simply carrying out his duties in a very thoughtful way. A person must look beyond the first impression and peer deep into the bloodstained layers enveloping sex and violence.Hanzo 2: The Snare opens with a CSI styled crime scene. The victim is a woman. When Hanzo and a few of his colleagues discover her, there is a fair amount of exposition between them to set up the story. This viewer appreciates this as it allows more time for the sex scenes.They determine that the woman has recently had an abortion and so they pay a visit to the clinic. It is a place for women, men are not allowed. When women are free of the company of men they are often naked, behaving wildly and communicating with some kind of greater nature spirit. When they are in the company of men they sit quietly and speak softly with their naturalness obviously suppressed. The women’s wild sexuality contrasts with the masculine penchant for violence. The men are enchanted with the women’s sex, and the women admire the men’s fighting.Hanzo has no respect for any of this when criminals are involved. He will confront anyone at any time to carry out his mission of justice. He is skillful with his sword but as we know it is not the only weapon he will use. His choice of weapons and his ability with them could be described here at length, but perhaps it would motivate the reader to view the film and witness firsthand what Hanzo can do. Samurai should continually practice using their swords and Hanzo’s maneuvers are very instructive. Not only can he make a woman’s head spin, he can scare the shit out of men.

Hanzo locates the victim’s family and brings her body to them. Their pain and heartache is apparent, but this does not keep Hanzo from blaming them for their daughter's demise because they have not kept watch over her. The parents admit they had no idea where she had been or what she had been doing. Other characters readily agree that the parents hold this responsibility. In their culture the responsibility of the parents is readily acknowledged whereas other cultures are only recently coming to terms with this.Another situation which seems peculiar in Japanese films is the proclivity for eavesdroppers and voyeurs to peer through half opened windows and holes in walls. Secretive meetings are discovered and sexual intercourse is watched. In an environment filled with thin movable screens and sliding windows it becomes a commonplace occurrence.

Because the weapons in violent confrontations are knives and swords, instead of sharp and explosive gunfire, the battle scenes are filled with bloodcurdling screams. This viewer has difficulty in selecting a preference.Towards the end of Hanzo 2 I have identified a common movie contrivance which apparently crosses cultures. In the final duel scene, the fighting comes to an abrupt halt because clearly one of the combatants has been struck, but due to the expressionless faces we do not know who it is. For a full minute the characters and camera slowly move away until we are allowed to see who the victor is.

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