Sanjuro, a wandering samurai enters a rural town in nineteenth century Japan. After learning from the innkeeper that the town is divided between two gangsters, he plays one side off against the other. His efforts are complicated by the arrival of the wily Unosuke, the son of one of the gangsters, who owns a revolver. Unosuke has Sanjuro beaten after he reunites an abducted woman with her husband and son, then massacres his father's opponents. During the slaughter, the samurai escapes with the help of the innkeeper; but while recuperating at a nearby temple, he learns of innkeeper's abduction by Unosuke, and returns to the town to confront him. Written by
Bernard Keane <BKeane2@email.dot.gov.au>
First class samurai action tale with philosophy to boot
Classic samurai action pic; often imitated but never equalled. Mifune creates a memorable character (who appeared in a sequel) in the Ronin who decides the course of his life on the toss of a stick, and ends up risking his life to save a village full of peasants he finds revolting. It's possible to see "Yojimbo's" actions as either heroic or as the game of a bored warrior in need of amusement -- as often in Kurosawa's films, the fact that the characters' motives remain open to interpretation adds depth to the film.
Wonderful images, and skillful direction that keeps the pace of the storytelling tight and tells most of the story through images -- this is the kind of film that is so good it can be watched a silent film without losing too much of its impact or meaning.
I think that if Kurosawa had spent more of his time in litigation and less making movies, he might have made a living for the rest of his life off all the movies that have ripped off this movie. Certainly Eastwood's "Man with No Name" character owes a lot to Mifune's contribution; not only in Leone's films (the first of which borrows its entire plot from Kurosawa; a court settlement ensued which made sure Kurosawa made most of the profits from "Fistful of Dollars" in Asia his own) but also in Eastwood's best film as a director -- "High Plains Drifter", which borrows scenes such as Eastwood's rebuke of the villagers from "Yojimbo".
The really funny thing about all this, and what not too many American critics or audiences have noted, is that "Yojimbo" is itself a western. All the ingredients for a western are here, and the film's plot and style obviously owe a debt to Zinnemann's "High Noon". "Yojimbo" even borrows the device of time, setting up a confrontation at 3:00 a.m. as shouted by the town crier. I like "Yojimbo" better than "High Noon", so I don't want to go too far into this line of thought....
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