Lady Snowblood: A Ghost Story

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When it comes to film, two of Japan’s most common genre outputs are the Samurai Film and the Ghost Story. At first glance (okay, and many sequential glances), Toshiya Fujita’s LADY SNOWBLOOD (1973) fits snugly in the Samurai category, following a stunning female assassin as she travels through late 19th century Japan, attempting to avenge her mother’s death. After looking closer at our heroine Yuki Kashima’s/The Lady Snowblood’s trial, however, it becomes clear that the film also works as a metaphorical ghost story, successfully blending the two prominent genres in an interesting and symbiotic way. Like a ghost whose unrest prevents it from passing on, Lady Snowblood’s entire existence is tied to a single piece of Unfinished Business: her quest for revenge. But whereas a phantom moves from this life to the next, Yuki’s eventual success actually gives her life for the first time, ending her state of limbo.

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The Criterion Collection — Top Ten Rankings

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I put together this ranking to inform my Criterion watching regimen. It’s a helpful way to sort through the Collection and it keeps me from staring at my rack of discs for hours on end.

There’s no real purpose to this list, other than the fact that it organizes information I find interesting. It’s not a “Best Of” list, and it’s not meant to be. And it’s by no means comprehensive or definitive, especially when some contributors (way to go, Paul Schrader) listed the 10 films they’re most grateful for instead of their absolute favorites. Several other contributors listed far more than 10 films (Looking at you, Kaurismaki), and if the contributors spent time actually ranking their favorites this list doesn’t take that into account — sorry, guys.

So it’s not perfect.

But that’s all fine by me, I’m just looking for a place to start, some name recognition for a particular film. Even if the ranked film isn’t the pinnacle of filmmaking for the contributor, choosing 10 films out of over 700 inevitably draws attention to individual selections.

Ultimately, Criterion’s Top-Ten series ends up being a list of endorsements from a wide range of interesting people, each with their own preferences, and I find this variety extremely valuable.

I like this list because it’s eclectic, coming from people who are familiar with the Criterion Collection, but aren’t necessarily film critics or filmmakers. There’s fashion designers, art curators, even doctors.

These Top 10 Lists retain the pretension I associate (and enjoy) with the Criterion Collection, but still present a well-rounded curation. Newer titles are often privy to their own fashionable publicity, and this was a helpful way to dig out obscure, overlooked titles that mean a lot to one, maybe two people.

And if a particular title makes the cut for one, maybe two people, I think it’s worth giving it a shot. They emerged from a massive pile of Criterion films with this film in hand, and were quite possibly the only person to do so. So it’s at least worthy of consideration.

This list starts with the most popular titles and ends with titles chosen by only one contributor. It will be regularly updated when each new Top Ten list is released.

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