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Kitano resurrects cult fave ‘Zatoichi’

Pic tells tale of master swordsman in disguise

Cannes fest favorite Takeshi Kitano is behind the camera again, directing and starring in “Zatoichi,” which resurrects the long-running Japanese anti-hero, absent from the screen since the late 1980s.

A blind traveling masseur whose humble facade hides his secret identity as a lightning-fast master swordsman, Zatoichi gained a huge cult following in Japan over 20 years in a television series and numerous features.

In the script by Kitano, the character lands in a town run by sinister gangs and a ruthless samurai, where he crosses paths with two beautiful geishas avenging their parents’ murder.

The cast also features Tadanobu Asano, who stars in Cannes competition entry “Bright Future,” by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Shooting wraps in Japan in early June with domestic release tentatively scheduled for fall.

“Zatoichi” is a Bandai Visual, Tokyo FM, Dentsu, TV Asashi, Saito Entertainment co-production. International sales will be handled by Paris-based Celluloid Dreams, which has Kitano’s entire back catalogue.

Kitano’s films “Kikujiro,” “Kids Return” and “Sonatine” all were official Cannes selections. He won the Golden Lion at the 1997 Venice fest for “Hana-bi.”

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