director Toshiya Fujita
On the success of Lady Snowblood (1973), director Toshiya Fujita and star Meiko Kaji team up again one year out for more revenge. The end of Lady Snowblood left our heroine near death, shot and stabbed, bleeding on the snow, her vengeance played out and vengeance having taking its return upon her. In Love Song of Vengeance, she’s on the run from the police, staving off huge groups of attackers from forest to beach. But she comes to realize the futility, perhaps because her own personal vendetta, inherited from her mother, is done, maybe she can give up and just go to prison.
If only things were so easy. She is enlisted by the secret police to spy on an anarchist/poet who is fomenting negativity and revolution against the nascent government.
Tracking forward in time from the first film, the Meiji period is nearly at an end. Japan is coming off a war against Russia in Manchuria, and the Westernized militarization as seen developing in the prior film has come to a head. This is what poet-anarchist Ransui Tokunaga (Juzo Itami) is protesting and he has proof of government intervention and murders of those fighting the system. As Snowblood comes to learn from both Ransui and his estranged brother, she had been enlisted by the bad guys, the establishment.
Even more so than the first film, Love Song of Vengeance is very political. Snowblood’s vengeance arcs alongside that of Ransui’s brother, whose apolitical stance, aligned with the poor is motivated for revenge not for one’s personal feelings but for a righteousness against the evils perpetrated by the new political order against the poor, as in when they infect the slum with plague and then burn it to the ground to stamp it out.
Still stylish and interesting, Love Song is nowhere as plain stand-out amazing as the first film — it would have been hard to match it — but it’s still excellent cinema.