Welcome to Akira Kurosawa info!  Log in or Register?

Sanjuro: Corruption and Perception: How Do the Good Function in an Evil System

  •   link

    lawless

    Really, this is just to throw the topic open. I don’t have any grand thing to say, but since so much of the movie is premised on the attempt to rescue the one official in the group who isn’t corrupt from those who are, and he later says the deaths weren’t necessary (see other thread re movie violence), I thought we could or should discuss the movie’s approach to uncovering and preventing corruption, as it seems to suggest it is wiser and more effective in the long run to tolerate some corruption short-term in order to build a better and more effective case against it long-term. What do you think?

    An analysis of the naivete and ineffectiveness of the young samurai who Sanjuro takes under his wing also may be in order here.

      link

    Vili Maunula

    A good question! I’ll have to give this one a little bit more time before formulating an answer. I’d love to hear others’ views, too.

      link

    Jeremy

    It’s depended on the degree of punishment, and the norms of the punishment.

    If the structure of punishment towards crime is rather light(I realize “light” punishment is relative) throughout the entirety of types of crime. Then to punish crime in their infancy is to be expected. To say, if repeats of crime, regardless of the number of time repeated, results in the same punishment, then nothing is gain in allowing the crime to take place of a long period, and it should be punished upon knowledge.

    In such case, the fear of crime is not enough to stop enterprising criminal element, but only those that thread the new waters curiously.

    To stop the more harden and determined criminal, the punishment most be scaled up significantly. To prevent unjust however, it would be wrong to punish harshly those, while guilty of crime, are innocent, for at least the time of any real malice. Not until one show repeated crime, or there engaging upon investigation scaling, enterprising crime, that is wiser to wait for the crime to develop more fully, so punishment can be given more fully. Or a risk of resetting the crime, and leaving the criminal undeterred is had.

    It is the continual light punishment of crime, and thus the resetting of the initial crime that allows deepen corruption for the criminal, while more harmful, ever changing crime maintains in place, but is so dilute for the public it goes largely unnoticed.

      link

    lawless

    Jeremy, how would you relate that to the corruption shown in Sanjuro? Is the problem that they’ve gotten away with a slap on the wrist, or is the problem that, as I see it, the corrupt people are also in charge of law enforcement and therefore able to escape any consequences?

      link

    Ugetsu

    I’m not entirely sure that the depiction of corruption in Sanjuro is anything other than a plot device – the mechanics of the corruption seem quite vaguely drawn out in contrast to the depictions we’ve seen in his contemporary films, or the direct satire in Yojimbo.

    I do find it interesting though that Kurosawa seems to make a hero of the horse faced man. This seems to contradict his standpoint in nearly every other film, where the hero is the man (or occasionally woman) who stands alone outside the system, fighting corruption or evil. Even where the hero is an employee of the system (such as Murakami in Stray Dog or Watanabe in Ikiru), he is still somewhat of an outsider (or becomes an outsider). This is the one film where he seems to argue that the quiet man of integrity, working steadily within the system can indeed change things.

      link

    cocoskyavitch

    lawless, I see Kurosawa struggling with “what do we do about evil?” in so very many of his films…Stray Dog, High and Low, The Bad Sleep Well, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Red Beard…It is the central struggle of his ouvre, up until his break with Mifune. Evil comes in many forms, and has many responses…corruption is one form…and, I think Ugetsu is right-Kurosawa is less interested in the phenomenon of corruption itself, as he is in using it as a “what-if” jumpoff point. To say he uses it as a “plot device” sounds a bit mechanistic. I do believe that Kurosawa really was troubled by the bad that we do to one another..to quote Rodney King; “Can we all just get a long?” or Kurosawa: “Why can’t people be happier together?”

    Ugestsu-good point you make-that Sanjuro is one of the only films in which a “hero” works within the system.

    It occurs to me that Kurosawa is torn in this film-his heart is with the individual-the ronin without a clan-Sanjuro-but, he admires the qualities of the “horse-faced” man. Kurosawa appears to be acknowledging the value of the quiet, steadfast, “Buddhist” approach as well as the (what would have been called “antihero” in the sixties…) ronin approach.

      link

    Ugetsu

    coco

    It occurs to me that Kurosawa is torn in this film-his heart is with the individual-the ronin without a clan-Sanjuro-but, he admires the qualities of the “horse-faced” man. Kurosawa appears to be acknowledging the value of the quiet, steadfast, “Buddhist” approach as well as the (what would have been called “antihero” in the sixties…) ronin approach.

    I don’t know if its pushing an interpretation too far, but perhaps Kurosawa’s very favourable portayal of the horse faced man is more a response to the ethical dead end of Yojimbo. If we follow Richies and Princes interpretation of Yojimbo as an expression of Kurosawas frustration with both Japanese society and his attempts at finding ‘solutions’ in his earlier films – i.e. Sanjuro as a ‘super samurai’ who goes in and wipes out everyone connected with corruption and evil – then perhaps the final Act of Sanjuro can be seen as Kurosawa stepping back from this.

    The first part of Sanjuro can be seen as similar to Yojimbo in that our nameless hero sets out (for no good reason than his own boredom) to wipe out the corruption he finds, but while he succeeds, we also see that he has found himself at a dead end – he is an unsheathed sword who has to keep killing even when he sees it is pointless. But our horse faced man represents an alternative way. Less viscerally satisfying (which is why of course the young samurai showed him no respect), but ultimately a more intellectually defensible approach to combating corruption.

      link

    cocoskyavitch

    Ugetsu, you are right-it is logical to assume a call-and-response relationship between Yojimbo and Sanjuro. I believe the critics have said as much-that Sanjuro is an antidote to Yojimbo‘s violence in response to evil/corruption.

      link

    Jeremy

    Sorry for the late replay Lawless, and even more so for being unable to remember Sanjuro well enough to comment on the question.

      link

    ssj

    slightly but not entirely off topic. . . .

    this is terrible to admit, but i’m having trouble getting into sanjuro. tried starting it twice, but after the first 15-20 minutes, i found my attention waning. this has never happened to me before while watching a kurosawa film.

    will give the movie a try again when i’ve had more sleep.

      link

    yjmbobllns

    The last time I watched SANJURO I was struck that most of the narrative differences from YOJIMBO come from the villains being officials instead of yakuza. In YOJIMBO, the audience is freed from any real moral engagement because we know that every man Sanjuro cuts down has made a choice to work in an evil organization. With no exploration of the conditions of said decision and no real characterization of most of the foot soldiers, there are no ambiguities to keep us from marveling in their methodical demise. However, in SANJURO we must presume that most of the victims of Sanjuro’s sword are oblivious to the corruption in their leaders and are acting (to the best of their knowledge) honorably and lawfully. He constantly berates the young samurai for having forced him to kill innocent men. The final duel only happens as a result of the damage of having to save their asses.

    Cocoskyavitch, I like how you put it: that YOJIMBO and SANJURO are in a call-and-response relationship. I also agree with your point about The Problem of Evil being a theme in many Kurosawa films. I find a strong ethical viewpoint in all of them, but few more overtly black-and-white than YOJIMBO. The same way SEVEN SAMURAI is kind of an antecedent to the summer blockbuster, I view YOJIMBO as an antecedent to the superhero film. There are other, more apt genre comparisons to be made (it’s also an archetypal western and probably the most “high-art” chanbara ever made), but I’ll give the modern paradigm a little credit. Hardly a month goes by without some new blockbuster said to be inspired by some Kurosawa masterpiece.

    SANJURO seems a more personal response to YOJIMBO. Aside from being packed with all the juicy moral ambiguity discussed here, SANJURO is twice as funny just as much fun. ssj, if you give it another chance I hope it hits you in the sweet spot this time. It’s worth getting through to one of the hands-down-top-5-best-endings in the Kurosawa filmography.

    The corrupt officials also reinforce what I think is a recurring theme throughout Kurosawa’s work: the inherent corruption in any organization/system.

      link

    ssj

    i figure there must be something aweshum past the first quarter of the movie. will give it another spin. . . after i finish the magnificent seven with yul brynner. never seen this before.

Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)



Leave a comment

Log in or Register to post a comment!