Director: Akira Kurosawa
Book: Shūgorō Yamamoto novel Hibi Heian
Starring: Toshiro Mifune,Tatsuya Nakadai,Keiju Kobayashi,Yūzō Kayama. Japan. 1h 95m
After the raging success of Yojimbo, Akira Kurosawa, adapted Hibi Heian, to incorporate the lead character and developed Sanjuro. A sort of pseudo sequel, while carrying on all of the comedy antics from Yojimbo, this film only has one classic full on Samurai scene and it’s very end, but it’s generally entertaining throughout, if only a little off key from the original.
A group of young Samurai, gather together the temple to discuss the Lord Chamberlain who they believe is corrupt, one of them tells the superintendent and he agrees to intervene and meet the secretly at the Shrine to discuss the problem. A Ronin (Mifune) emerges from another room where he’s been resting, overhearing the Summarise discussing their plan, he suggests that it’s the Chamberlain who is corrupted, they feel insulted by his claims but soon find themselves surrounded by the superintendent men proving that in fact the Ronin was correct. He persuades the men to hide while he goes out at face the superintendent Men full on, in this altercation he manages to save the young gullible Samurai, a manager’s to win rust on both sides.
The young Samurai and the Ronin, go to the chamberlains house, where they find he’s been abducted and his wife and daughter imprisoned, they managed to convince a servant to get the guards drunk allowing them to steal the women and hide them next door at the superintendent compound. The wife asked the Ronin for his name and this scene repeats one from Yojimbo, where he looks to something nearby to declare his name this time he adopts Tsubaki, which are trees neighbouring the compound, she chastises him for using his sword to freely, something which comes back to bite him in the ass later on in the film.
The rest of the film sees the young Samurai learning some very useful life skills from the aged and much wiser Ronin, they have to unravel a complicated political plot, where to officials are trying to out and destroy them, they quite openly attempt to step into every single trap, and if it wasn’t for the guidance off the Ronin who has to constantly hold their hand every step of the way they probably would have died in the opening of the movie, but slowly they begin to develop a uncanny understanding about them, but he is still forced to do a lot of the hard work.
Part way through the film The Ronin and has to pretend to switch sides which divides the group some believing that he’s joined forces with the opposition and abandon them, and all customer side.
The film is incredibly bright with some very honest traditional insights, while it’s nowhere near as good as the original Yojimbo, it has the same imaginative Chess like strategy about it, along with buckets full of dark humour, something which Mifune has brought through from the first movie and It’s one of the performances that really cements him as being one of the greatest modern Japanese actors. While Yojimbo is more subversive, Sanjuro is more of a comedy which is just set in ancient samurai traditions but exposes a lot of them as being ludacris by pragmatic hero, who generally laugh in the face of death and does he eventually learn the wisdom of the old woman’s words, that sometimes a sword left in the sheath is more powerful. And in the final epic scene It seems that all humour has been completely eradicated from the film and it takes a darkened serious turn right before the bitter end.
R: Yojimbo (1961)
L: Samurai Films, A-Z of Japanese Films