Toshiro Mifune swaggers and snarls to brilliant comic effect in Akira Kurosawa’s tightly paced, beautifully composed Sanjuro. In this sly companion piece to Yojimbo, the jaded samurai Sanjuro helps an idealistic group of young warriors weed out their clan’s evil influences, and in the process turns their image of a “proper” samurai on its ear. Less brazen in tone than its predecessor but just as engaging, this classic character’s return is a masterpiece in its own right. —The Criterion Collection
The son of an army officer, Kurosawa studied art before gravitating to film as a means of supporting himself. He served seven years as an assistant to director Kajiro Yamamoto before he began his own directorial career with Sanshiro Sugata (1943), a film about the 19th century struggle for supremacy between adherents of judo and jujitsu that so impressed the military government, he was prevailed upon to make a sequel (Sanshiro Sugata Part Two). Following the end of World War II, Kurosawa’s career gathered speed with a series of films that cut across all genres, from crime thrillers to period dramas. Among the latter, his Rashomon (1951) became the first postwar Japanese film to find wide favor with Western audiences. It was Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (1954), however, that made the largest impact of any of his movies outside of Japan. Although heavily cut for its original release, this three-hour-plus medieval action drama, shot with painstaking… read more
Yojimbo ‘2’ dives into the motions, but precisely feels as if it’s merely going through them: in its duel, corruption motif, even Mifune’s lone warrior - who appears tired still from his first outing - all in perfunctory decoupage of a capitalising sequel - either that, or more a dramatic exercise while Sanjuro goes philosophical, amongst the genteel he comes into seeing him reconsider his scruples. So it’s not Yojimbo, but a sly moralistic exercise as such - if one that does fall somewhat flat, and unevenly, as a genre piece in practice altogether elsewhere.
It’s been roughly half a year since my last Kurosawa (High & Low), and I must be stupid to wait that long to watch another, especially with that impossible Mifune-Nakadai duo. In the opening scene… read review
Sanjuro is not a film about sword play and is not a samurai drama (all of this is surface structure).
It is a film about the fatal danger democratic societies face today: the danger of being overthrown… read review
At first, it seems casually tossed off—which, I gather, in some ways it was. As the return of Toshiro Mifune’s wandering samurai, it followed close on the heels of Yojimbo at the request… read review