Bresson and Kurosawa both made their feature debuts this year, and what mastery there is from the first, how terrifically impressive they are. This is the kind of film that shows what separates the men from the boys.
Rain falling on structures and nature as it collects on a closed umbrella.
The silence before a match, and the calm before grappling. The way a camera moves over its subjects during combat as if it was the martial art itself. The melancholy inside every throw, the kind known better as experience.
A belief that people can learn and change, that a wall is just a wall and you can move past it.
One of the most innovative and influential Jidai-geki's of Japan's early film history. The influence on later masters of the genre like Kobayashi is obvious, yet the film is overshadowed by Kurosawa's later archievements.
***1/2 More a set of great scenes than a great film. The last fight in the storm, the seduction scene on the stairs between Sanshiro and Sayo, Gennosuke Higaki character and the violence of the fights. Recommended.
All the Kurosawa ingredients are here in embryonic form: the moral fibre of a strong-willed individual versus social disintegration, the unsurpassed command over natural elements, the discipline behind excellence and the blossoming of character. The ritual of education achieves resonance in the juxtaposition of the impeccable judogi of the aged Murai versus Sanshiro's torn one. A remarkable debut!
"But your judo and my judo are worlds apart. Do you know why? Because you don't understand humanity." I am convinced that, had the original cut been preserved, this would be considered a masterpiece. Despite flaws, he lays the foundation for a plethora of genres. The tracking and crane shots are later transcribed by Leone & the characters by Tarentino. Filmed with conviction and yet a WISE film. This was a DEBUT?!
For a director's first movie, this is impressive and showed that Kurosawa had an eye. Sadly, this movie is rather rote because it is by-the-numbers by today's standards. I wonder if the full (now lost) version would have made it somewhat better than what exists today. If you are going to go through Kurosawa's filmography, best to save this one near the end of your marathon as there are so many better films.