Lady Snowblood ★★★★

In the pantheon of vengeance tales, this 1973 Japanese film ranks high. The inspiration for Tarantino's Kill Bill, Lady Snowblood is the story of a woman who was literally conceived to avenge crimes against her dead mother ... acts that occurred before she was born, committed by people she has never met. The film performs an interesting balancing act ... the backstory, the training, the search, the assassinations ... nicely-paced interleaves and flashbacks that allow us to grow increasingly sympathetic to the main character, and develop genuine concern for what will become of her once her job is done, given the single-minded and self-destructive nature of revenge. The film has some beautiful cinematography and art direction, details that don't really jump out at you at first but add to the atmosphere. Fight scenes are poorly choreographed, seeming weak by today's standards, and dated by the 'blood spray' style developed by Kurosawa in Yojimbo and Sanjuro (and overdone by just about everyone who's used them since). Still, this is a great film.