Sanshiro, a strong stubborn youth, comes to the city to apprentice at a jujitsu school. His first night, he sees Yano in action, a master of judo, a more spiritual art, and he begs to be Yano's student. As the youth learns technique, he must also learn "satori," the calm acceptance of Nature's law. If he can balance strength and control, then judo may become the training regimen for the city's police, Sanshiro can gain respect from an old teacher in a jujitsu school, and he can win the hand of Sayo, that teacher's daughter, who is also sought by jujitsu's finest master, the implacable Higaki, who vows to kill Sanshiro in a midnight fight on a windswept mountainside. Written by
The climactic fight scene was originally planned to be filmed on a staged set with painted clouds and large wind fans. Akira Kurosawa, unhappy with the look, got permission from the studio for three more outdoor location days. Day three delivered the huge windstorm used in the final footage. See more »
From the very first shot of this very first Kurosawa film, you know you are in good hands. What seems like a standard moving shot is revealed to be the subjective viewpoint of the future hero, Sugata. From here, the film proceeds at a fast clip (aided by some crude chopping done by contemporary censors) to set what proved to be the blueprint for the Asian action flick. And frankly, few future films have improved on it. Kurosawas imaginative camera work and brilliant editing keeps the whole thing very watchable and the subtlety of the character development is still well in advance of the typical modern action film. The famous scene where Sugata finds himself stuck in a muddy pond, trying to find some sort of enlightenment is still fascinating and beautiful. And typically, the film ends with an amazing fight scene - the fight choreography might be primitive by todays standards, but the glorious moonlit mountain top scenery is still thrilling - its been imitated numerous times, but why watch the imitators when the original is still best? You can of course say this about pretty much any Kurosawa film.
I saw this on the Australian Mad Men DVD. The print quality is pretty poor and the translation isn't great. And it would have been nice if they had done more work to reconstruct the original cut - some deleted scenes are added as extras. I suspect the original Kurosawa cut was much better, sadly, we may never see it.
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