After carrying out a quest for revenge under the moniker of “Lady Snowblood” and leaving a trail of bodies in her wake, Yuki (Meiko Kaji) has finally been tracked down by police. It looks like she may be headed for the extreme punishment of death by hanging… until the secret police, led by Seishiro Kikui (Shin Kishida), step in to save her.
The secret police are willing to save Yuki’s life, if she’ll do them a favor in exchange. They want her to spy on anarchist Ransui Tokunaga (Juzo Itami), a writer who has been distributing anti-government materials. There’s one document in particular that Kikui wants to get his hands on, a mysterious document that could potentially bring down the government.
Yuki agrees to the plan, posing as a maid and working in Ransui’s home. But as time goes on, she begins to question Kikui’s true motives, and whether she is working for the right side.
Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance was, like its predecessor, directed by Toshiya Fujita. The screenplay is credited to original Lady Snowblood writer Norio Osada along with Kiyoide Ohara, based on a popular manga by Kazuo Koike and Kazuo Kamimura.
When we’re reunited with Yuki, we swiftly see her kill at least a handful of men. Clearly, her life has remained violent in the decade that has passed since we last saw her! (The films were released in 1973 and 1974, but set around ten years apart.)
Just like the first film, Love Song of Vengeance is completely engaging from beginning to end. And just like the first film, the cinematography and aesthetics are top-notch. There are several shots which, to me, are damn near perfect perfect, especially near the end of the film: Yuki standing at the top of the steps, holding the document, and that final shot with the flags, for instance. SO GOOD. (I wish I had some screen captures to insert here, but I’m waiting on a new DVD drive for my laptop, so… just watch it. Watch it and be amazed, haha.)
Meiko Kaji delivers another fantastic performance in the role of Yuki/”Lady Snowblood.” We see new sides to the character here, as she attempts to evade capture by the police and later carries out a lengthier spy mission.
She’s every bit as calculating and kick-ass as she was in the previous film, but also shows more vulnerability. And she fights with more than her sword this time around. Not only is she as fierce with her words as she is with a blade, but she also gets her hands on a gun at one point!
Whereas the first film was by and large a gruesome tale of revenge, this one has an interesting political and historical backdrop, following Japan’s war with Russia in the early 1900s. I must admit, this isn’t a part of history I’m terribly well-versed in, but that just made this film all the more fascinating to me. It’s nearly as violent as the first film, but the story is more of a political thriller of corruption and revolution, bringing Love Song of Vengeance a unique tone compared to its predecessor.
In one scene, Yuki tells Kikui that she has dropped the “blood” from her name. He responds, “Then what’s left? Just muddy, melty snow.” He has a point semantically, but luckily for the viewer, this film does not suffer from the lack of “blood” — literally, or in metaphorical reference to the film’s energy/liveliness. The first film is more striking and memorable, but Love Song of Vengeance is well worth tuning in for, a fascinating continuation of Yuki’s grim autobiography.
Love, love, love these films. Going to have to revisit soon. And you’re absolutely correct, the cinematography is incredible, intense, beautiful.
I picked up the Criterion release a few months ago and have a feeling I’ll be getting a lot of use out of it. Publishing this post made me want to re-watch both! Glad to hear you enjoy them as much as I do!
I’ve been eyeballing that damn Criterion release for a long time. Looks tremendous!