Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sanjuro (1962)


Continuing the saga of our wondering ronin (Toshiro Mifune) as he stumbles upon nine young samurai hoping to rid their clan of takeover from their three corrupt vice-chamberlains who have kidnapped one of their uncles, the chamberlain himself.

"Killing people is a bad habit"

While Yojimbo is an extremely powerful homage to westerns and an influx of style, it's interesting to see how its sequel Sanjuro manages to stay the same, and yet be so very different. Here Kurosawa goes Hollywood. A blaring score, a series of fun, light hearted moments, and a strong moral center. Our wondering ronin isn't the quick killer he once was, and through meeting the elderly wife of the chamberlain is forced to confront his violent ways. While this turn is a bit more action, and far quicker paced, it comes with a morally conflicted center. Just what does it mean to be a wondering sword for hire?

Perhaps that's why I love this so much. The odd exchange between the wife (Takako Irie) and Mifune creates some of the most introspective moments in film. If you consider Kurosawa's work as a whole they represent more than just a single film thought, but rather his viewpoint on the use of the sword in general. Take for example this quote: "You're too sharp. That's your trouble. You're like a drawn sword. Sharp, naked without a sheath. You cut well. But good swords are kept in their sheaths." In this quote you can find everything this tale wishes to present.

Sure the movie is more action packed, but this time the action comes at a cost. Gone are the days in which Sanjuro (30-something) can merely cut down a village of soldiers with no feelings. It's a nice little look at the world through the eyes of Kurosawa. You know with Kurosawa the story's going to be on spot, and the directing impeccable. So at times it's just a question of what can he bring that's new. Here, he brings a little bit of everything. He puts it all out there. And while at times the story can feel a bit weighed down by its light-hearted, and lack of real character development, it's one of Kurosawa's most succinct efforts to date. In many respects it's the Kurosawa film that can most appeal to mainstream movie goers. Still, don't let that fool you, there's a strong amount of beauty to be held for those Kurosawa lovers among us.

Sanjuro is vintage visual Kurosawa with a far more Hollywood directorial effort. It works because it's light hearted, fun, and full of life and moral statements. Making even its flaws seem hardly worth the effort to mention.

Alternate Perspectives:

"But even though there were some enjoyable aspects to the film the brief 96 minute run-time seemed to take forever. I really can't account for the reason I felt this way other than the story is rather simple and the pace of the film is rather slow." - Common Sense Movie Reviews

Got a Sanjuro review? Email me (lifeinequinox@gmail.com) and I'll post it here!

3 better thoughts:

Chase Kahn said...

Enjoying the Kurosawa! I was wondering what day "High and Low" was being featured...I would love to post a write-up to be quoted. Let me know...

Univarn said...

@Chase High and Low will be March 14th, at the moment. But yeah, if you do a writeup be sure to let me know and I'll gladly include it :). Also I added the entire schedule to the side bar (left) in my blog in case you're curious about any other film.

Lemmy Caution said...

I actually think I enjoy Sanjuro more than Yojimbo. If for no other reason, there is that fantastic explosion of blood in that final duel. I know it's coming, but it shocks me every time.

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