In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.
A wandering samurai, Sanjuro, is drawn into local politics. The Superintendent of a clan is plotting to take over the clan by implicating the Chamberlain in corrupt activities (activities the Superintendent is actually responsible for). Part of the plan involves killing off the Chamberlain's staff and, in protecting them, Sanjuro sides with them. The supporters are massively outnumbered so it will require all of Sanjuro's cunning and swordcraft to ensure the Superintendent does not succeed in his evil plan. Written by
When Sanjuro has to kill about a dozen of Kikui's men and then smacks three of the young samurai for forcing him to kill so many, Toshirô Mifune slapped the three young actors for real. As seen in the film, the slaps both surprised the actors and knocked them backwards. See more »
Sanjuro is the sequel to Yojimbo. The anti-hero is once again played by Mifune. He is a roaming "masterless samurai" after the Japanese emperor officially disbanded the samurai. Sanjuro's only mission in life is to survive and live by the unspoken samurai code of honor. In both films, it is only by accident that he combat the oppressive. The opening scene in Sanjuro was a long shot of a temple. It was followed by a jump cut, close-up of the same temple. This is a jarring effect that is a pattern of Kurosawa. He used this very same technique in the opening sequence of Rashomon. Kurosawa's superbly sharpen directorial skills are evident in this film. He uses a narrative economy technique that lets the audience dive right into the story without using a long draw-out exposition. The plot and characters are explained within the first five minutes of this film.
The story begins during a samurai meeting in a house. Sanjuro interrupts this meeting. He's been listening to their conversation. The cocky Sanjuro relaxes their guard because he analyzes their situation. He predicts, and is subsequently correct, that they will be ambushed. The group prepares for their certain death. Quickly, Sanjuro devises a plan and boldly states, "trust me" to his cohorts. This excellent delivery from Mifune lets the audience know that this sequel is going to be just as fun (if not better) as Yojimbo. A hilarious character for this film is the captured guard that was spared because of the rescued woman. His role was tiny but very memorable. He was the comic relief for a few of the tense moments. Towards the end of the film, the flower signal scene is super funny. Sanjuro tricks the three goof balls into putting the flowers in the creek. The neighboring samurai rejoice with excitement. Meanwhile, the captured guard shortly joins the celebration but gets a look from the samurai and returns to the closet. This is reminiscent of the three stooges. I really love this scene.
Reoccurring Kurosawa patterns include the use of multiple film planes. An example of this is the scene in the barn. Sanjuro is lying on the wheel barrel. The camera POV is on the floor shooting upwards. The wheel barrel is the first plane, Sanjuro is the middle plane, and the other samurai with their backs against the wall are the third plane. This abstract framing adds to the film's production value. It also breaks up the predictable framing of the characters. Likewise, framing is consistent in this film as in all Kurosawa film's because all of the players are perfectly in view, no actor is excluded from the camera view. Mifune's character finally arches in this sequel because he is told "killing is a bad habit" by the rescued older lady. He is quick to change internally to her wishes. Although Sanjuro is told once again, "please don't use too much violence", Sanjuro's hand is forced. He is "forced to kill" the numerous bad guys that are guarding the three hostage samurai because of their mistrust. He is hard on himself but harder on the three samurai that he slaps. In addition, this scene is reminiscent of Yojimbo. Sanjuro is entrusted with the lives of the "enemy" but instead slaughter his real enemy. Another example of his arched character in this film occurs in the final scene. Sanjuro does not want to fight the banished samurai. Once again, Sanjuro is force into violence. His last words were, "I am just like him, he was like a sword that should have a sheath". This is a clear sign that Sanjuro does not enjoy the lifestyle of the samurai. Whereas before it seemed like he didn't mind the senseless killing. In all, Sanjuro succeeds as another excellent story by Kurosawa. It is most definitely Hollywood influenced film.
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