Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sanshiro Sugata (1943)


Hard-headed aspiring judo fighter, Sugata (Susumu Fujita), slowly grows as a fighter and a man throughout his training.

Ah, here it is, the very first Akira Kurosawa film. And I have to admit, the only thing more difficult than reviewing it, may be finding it (except now with the Criterion release). Still, Sugata is like a great opening. It's perfectly fine as a stand-alone film, but it's more of a prelude to things to come. It features standard Kurosawa directing techniques: medium shots, pans, fades, long still shots. It's great for those who want to see the beginning of Kurosawa, while at the same time being a strong enough visual film to hold its own.

Though don't let that fool you, there's quite a lot to the plot. It's got romance, action, and a rather old school Hollywood style flare, mixed in with some well designed silent film style structure. This is great in that it gives the film a beautiful and unique look, but I have to admit it took me a while to grasp all the plot elements. Some not quite as well defined as I would like. As well the characters feel a bit stagnant, and far too quickly shifted in development. I get it's standard practice for the "do one thing, changes everything" personality approach often adapted, but even still I've never been a big fan of it.

Overall though, Sugata is still solid entertainment, with great directing highlights. It won't sweep you off your feet, but those looking for a visually strong directorial debut, will definitely find much to acclaim here. The performances are spot on, and it's nice to see not only the spawning of Kurosawa, but also his working relationship with Takashi Shimura and Susumu Fujita.

Not a masterpiece of cinema by any means, or stretch, but Sanshiro Sugata is a great prelude of things to come from the legendary Japanese director.

Alternate Perspectives:

"Though the film masquerades as a superficial genre picture, it delves deeper into human spirituality and identity, evoking the frailty of narcissism and lust for power and their brutal consequences." - Korova Theatre Presents: The Final Cut

0 better thoughts:

Related Posts with Thumbnails