A part of this view­ing list: Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion Spine #52: Aki­ra Kurosawa’s Yojim­bo.

You might know the remake of this film bet­ter than Yojim­bo itself. Clint East­wood and Ser­gio Leone retold it as A Fist­ful of Dol­lars. I’ve not actu­al­ly seen A Fist­ful of Dol­lars, but this is the sec­ond time I’ve seen Yojim­bo. While the film isn’t as deep or ripe for crit­i­cal analy­sis as many of Kurosawa’s oth­er works, it also isn’t as shal­low and anti­cli­mac­tic as the Cri­te­ri­on Essay indi­cates. Alexan­der Sesonke states that:

Mifu­ne achieved inter­na­tion­al star­dom in Kurosawa’s films of the 1950s, emerg­ing as an actor of com­pelling pow­er, capa­ble of a great range and sub­tle­ty of expres­sion. But as San­juro, no sub­tle­ty is necessary—sheer phys­i­cal pres­ence suf­fices.

Yet what kept con­stant­ly catch­ing my atten­tion was the sub­tle cun­ning and glee that San­juro takes in play­ing the war­ring gangs against each oth­er. He almost always has a smar­tass grin lurk­ing when open dis­dain is not present. His phys­i­cal pres­ence suf­fices for the two-dimen­sion­al sup­port­ing char­ac­ters he manip­u­lates, but the audi­ence and the innkeep­er [the only oth­er char­ac­ter to show actu­al devel­op­ment in the film] are privy to the strate­gic mas­tery that is Sanjuro’s true strength.

The innkeep­er shouldn’t be dis­re­gard­ed. He is the only per­son we see in the film that takes an inde­pen­dent role and sees no point in the fight­ing. His dis­dain stands in oppo­site to the undertaker/cooper and Sanjuro’s view of the war as an oppor­tu­ni­ty. Their dif­fer­ent opin­ions are based on eco­nom­ics, the innkeeper’s cus­tom has been hurt by the fight, while for the under­tak­er busi­ness is boom­ing, but they also reflect the per­son­al­i­ties of the char­ac­ters them­selves.



As San­juro plays one side against the oth­er, the innkeep­er slow­ly comes to under­stand that, though he is mer­ce­nary, San­juro is vir­tu­ous under­neath. An easy dis­tinc­tion between good and evil would not have caught Sanjuro’s atten­tion the way that the bad ver­sus worse sit­u­a­tion that actu­al­ly exists in the town does. This nov­el­ty appeals to a true ronin lifestyle, self-serv­ing but not appear­ing so, and well-suit­ed to such a mal­ad­just­ed, mis­an­throp­ic per­son­al­i­ty as San­juro. Even after he gets his ass hand­ed to him and is near death, his spir­it is nev­er more alive. This is where it is eas­i­est to see how West­ern in intent is Yojim­bo; with its par­tic­u­lar style of deter­mi­na­tion and intent. It is some­what hilar­i­ous but not unex­pect­ed then, that a film made with delib­er­ate West­ern influ­ence would be picked up and redone by a West­ern direc­tor. Although there is prob­a­bly less dif­fer­ence between East and West than mod­ern and tra­di­tion­al.



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