Thursday, 8 September 2016

Yojimbo (1961)

I've mentioned before that this is probably the Kurosawa film with the most remakes, and it is not hard to see why.  It's got an engrossing, expertly-paced script full of ruthlessness and double-crosses; a compelling central performance from Toshiro Mifune; and it's beautifully shot.  Even though it is a black and white film in another language, I'm giving it a straight up Recommendation.  It's that good.

Given the many remakes (A Fistful of Dollars, Last Man Standing, The Warrior & The Sorceress, Django), there's no small chance you're familiar with the basic premise of the tale, but just in case you're not, here it is:

A drifter - in this case a lordless samurai - arrives in a town riven by a feud between two rival gangs.  He inserts himself into the conflict, playing a dangerous game of bluff and double-bluff in an attempt to bleed both sides dry.  He can rely on only his wits and his sword to keep him one step ahead of the men he's trying to destroy.

There's basically nothing to complain about in this film.  Some of the soundtrack choices are probably going to sound a little unusual to western ears, but I think that's purely an issue of different cultures.  It's visually stylish, with wide framing shots that would heavily influence the western genre; and Kurosawa is not afraid to tell his story visually, trusting the audience to infer what is going on.  It's even got the decency to be a taut 100 or so minutes in length, which makes it much more accessible than some of Kurosawa's epic length efforts like The Seven Samurai.

Well worth your time.

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