Hard to beat. Love and Honour the sadly generically titled final film in Yôji Yamada’s samurai trilogy is a sedate, old fashioned tale which features a blind swordsman. The ICA for some reason had to show it on DVD, whose reduced resolution made it look like a fifties Japanese film, which was exactly how it felt (like a low powered Ozu). This is no Zatoichi though. Instead we have a court food taster who ingests a bit of poison and it removes the power of sight. A few rumours and a wife needing to do what they can to survive and this peon finds himself committing to a battle for honour with a local samurai.

As we reached the climatic battle, and all the training sequences showed just how hard it is to fight someone when blind, I thought it might be the antidote to Zatoichi. The food taster wasn’t that handy with a sword in the first place, so by rights he should have been diced to pieces. SPOILERS:

He wins. Not in convincing heroic fashion, with a bit of a lunge and luck. Nevertheless I have never seen a blind swordsman lose a battle. Much like I have never seen a team with ten men lose a match of football*. The power of the underdog is a vibrant myth in human society, most usually demonstrated in the tenacity of teams reduced to ten men. Particularly if you think the sending off was unjust.

All that said, in reality blindness is a serious disadvantage in a swordfight, unless you can tap into the force or something. (Martin talks a bit more about this phenomenon here). Which reminds me of a Ruud Gullit quote when his Chelsea did not manage to beat a team who had had two men sent off. In his post match interview Ruud managed to croke out the following deathless quote: “You have seen how hard it is to beat a team when they are reduced to ten men. Imagine how much harder it is therefore when they are down to nine”.

*Unless the other team have ten men. Or if they were already losing. Or, well actually I probably have seen it but it wasn’t really all that notable. Well except in the World Cup when Beckham got sent off. Or Zidane come to think of it. But both of them deserved so there was no moral high ground.

Whatever. Leave me to my generalisations.