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Yojimbo: Love for a killer

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    Jeremy

    Unfortunately I was not able to sit and write in a single night, too many distractions ended up stretching this over a week. So with a many lost moments of thought, I would expect certain areas to not be entirely understandable and maybe even gaps in what I’m trying to get across exist, not to mention my poor writing skills.

    I was hoping for more polish, but my birthday is coming up and I will be leaving the country soon.

    Anyways, Hopefully you get the jest of it.

    For those not completely familiar with Yojimbo, I will be calling the main character played my Mifune-Sanjuro as opposed to Yojimbo, as his name in Yojimbo is Kuwabatake Sanjuro, and should not be confused with the Sanjuro in the movie Sanjuro. It just how I type it, and I don’t feel like changing it 🙂

    I will focus largely on the audience’s building bond with Sanjuro. This is critical to the first time viewer, giving that Sanjuro comes to us as a stranger and ends up killing nearly the entire town, it become a bit fascinating how we come to love him.

    As fans of the movie and having likely seen the movies many times, many key elements can be missed. This is largely due to already knowing everything, these important items are no longer of large value to us- not to say these elements are not important to the enjoyment of the film .

    So for this write-up I will be working on the concept as the first time viewer, even though first time viewer is unlikely to catch or even understand what it presented. This take several views and breaking down the film, and no doubt even after doing so, many things are still missed. Regardless of what or what not is capture in the story telling, the importance is maintained throughout.

    Among the connection building I will also speak briefly on how we learn of the town with Sanjuro, and more important learn about Sanjuro from the town.


    Since both we the audience and Sanjuro wonder into a town with no information, we get a brief glimpse to the problems of this upcoming town. This is done though over hearing a conversation as Sanjuro stops to drink some water. At one point the man, who’s conversation we are over hearing, indirectly speaks to Sanjuro. This is done in such a way as to group Sanjuro, a stranger as another wanderer problem.

    Giving the audiences lack of information, this connection of Sanjuro being another problem is normal and even suggested by the movie. Although as the audience we don’t really know the problem yet, it allows to open our self for some pre-judging.

    Coming to a rather bizarre atmosphere setup for the town and movie as a whole. Sanjuro and us the audience as a follow to this stranger, come into a empty windy town, curious observers though the windows and all highlighted by the dog walking by with a hand in it’s mouth.

    A vice use throughout the movie is the hand feeding of the story line. The story in Yojimbo is not nearly as important as Sanjuro himself. The back story of the town can be told to us quickly, but the liking of Sanjuro most be done with pace, and care. The entire movie banks on us caring about and loving Sanjuro, for the movie to hold any value, it must take care in how it treats the audience.

    This bond building starts shortly, but first we get some filler in to what’s going on, we learn of the town as Sanjuro does from Constable Hansuke.

    Among Hansuke’s talk, he too is quick to group Sanjuro with typical wanderer that aims to be gang member.

    What occurs next is the most important and most repeated element to the movie. The movie hangs on the separation of Sanjuro to gang member, without this separation, our approval of this actions later will undermine the movie’s goal of making Sanjuro a good guy, even though he and his action kill nearly the entire town.

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    Sanjuro walks over to one of the mentioned gangs spoken of by Hansuke, and we get a chance to see how Sanjuro compares to the typically wanderer that walks into this town. A still doesn’t due much justice but the difference is noticeable in every aspect. Compositionally Sanjuro taking center of a circle, helps to show this difference.

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    After walking away from the gang member, we are reminded by constable Hansuke, Sanjuro is not doing the typical things done by wanderers wanting to be part of a gang. That being he hasn’t kill anyone yet.

    Sanjuro walks into a restaurant, the owner is another story vice, where he simply tells Sanjuro/the audience, as to what is going on.

    The restaurant owner plays a important part, his role is yet to come into play, for now he is simply a informer and story vice. It should be noted that although the restaurant owner feeds and talks to Sanjuro, he too groups Sanjuro as the problem-the typical gang member.

    After the restaurant owner sets up the story, bring both the audience and Sanjuro up to speed to the town’s problem. We again are presented with a partial comparison of Sanjuro to gang members.

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    Much like the scratching that Sanjuro does, the way he eats rice, is a means to see Sanjuro relax, as warming up to him for the audience. These small bits so far are needed to help along the larger bits that will quickly come. (I admit that perhaps the whole rice thing is not the strongest example for some, to me it is a rather important move, as it creates comfort. By taking away the hard edge of a character by showing him eat relaxed, the audience relaxes and more open to bonding. Such things Kurosawa repeats in his other movies, it on this, I believe it is done on purpose.)

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    Now we stop learning about the town though Sanjuro and start to learn about Sanjuro though the town. The restaurant owner key role now starts to emerge. Sanjuro in a relaxed state begins to speak of himself, as the restaurant owner learns, so does the audience. This is a building block to allow the restaurant owner become us the audience. It is based on him where we are determine if our feeling about Sanjuro are correct

    The restaurant’s owner role will quickly be critical.

    Another bit of comparison and distancing bit, allowing us to see Yojimbo as something different then the typical wanderer the town receives. It Mifune’s rather subtle acting that really gets this idea across, along with some rather cheerful and heroic music.

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    The way the gang member acts highlight Sanjuro’s intelligence and helps to further separate him from the others. This bit is helpful for the upcoming scene. Here the gang members show off tattoos as a means to convince themselves and other that they are tough. Sanjuro is unlikely to have any tattoos, and he doesn’t not dress in the gang styling’s.

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    As another means to separate, we find that the tough guy look of the gang members is nothing but a look. While Sanjuro’s rather nice guy look, by no means makes him weak. Really nothing more then to ensure us that Sanjuro is the real deal. The speed in which this scene happens is so fast, it even difficult to find a frame that wasn’t a blur of action. With the fast pace, and camera angle giving, this scene holds a great deal of power.

    Walking away without fear, completely come, and even offering a bit of comedy as he speaks to the casket maker.

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    Though the Sanjuro dealing with Seibei, we get to warm up a bit more to Sanjuro, seeing his collective calmness and intelligence. This bit of intelligence separation will be key later on.

    Another bit for the audience to warm up is to and have confidence, is for Sanjuro to show he is too smart to be out smarted by gang leaders. By building audience confidence in Sanjuro we are more open to accepting his action to kill, while not labeling him as a bad guy. Sanjuro’s facial movements further reassure by showing his lack of concern upon hearing of the plot to kill him.

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    When Sanjuro finally gives his name, and by Sanjuro looking directly into the camera, we are signaled that not only has Sanjuro warmed up the audience. We the audience should be starting to open up to him.

    Although he is really looking out at the field in which to get his name, it is still a acknowledgment to the audience watching. This is as formal an introduction as Sanjuro will ever give.

    Now hopefully being warmed up to Sanjuro, we are now ready to elevate him higher then the gang members and gang leaders. We are presented with a crane lift shoot to Sanjuro standing high above on a platform, this will become more common and increasingly more important.

    (This bit can not be capture well in still and is roughly 26:47 to 26:55 in the film. )

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    [To stray off topic briefly, I’m confused to the sequence in which the master of Seibei runs away.

    I believe it is another means to show that Sanjuro is the real deal and the supposed master knows better then to pretend now. It does however work perfectly to Sanjuro‘s plan, by creating a demand for him.

    A rather unique shot.

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    Even Sanjuro seem a bit confused and thus highlighted by music.

    ]

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    This is our first neutralizing shot, and bases on the entire movie’s theme.

    For the first time, Sanjuro literary stands in the middle of two evils, not only that, he is high above them. Again a means to elevate Sanjuro’s status and allow the audience to bond.

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    I suppose everyone gets giddy when everything goes to plan. Another bit of Sanjuro relax and allowing the audience to come in and assure our confidence in him.

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    The stupidity of this fight is funny. Notice triangle effect.

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    The three most powerful people in the town,. Notice again, Sanjuro forming the peak of a triangle, the triangle in composition, generally is to show levels of power. (members Jon and Vili help to explain it’s use in Rashomon—-http://akirakurosawa.info/forums/topic/rashomon-the-symbolism)

    The restaurant owner now takes a active audience role, it is though him, in which we the audience bond via the restaurant owner.

    Sanjuro is again relaxed and revealing more about himself. The restaurant owner is open but still apprehensive, and associating Sanjuro with a typical gang member. Although we, much like the restaurant owner are familiar with Sanjuro, even accepting of him, it doesn’t mean we have a connection or bond.

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    Here the restaurant owner after showing some apprehension, lets his guard down and begins to bonds with Sanjuro with a laugh.

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    He does quickly catch himself, and goes back to be apprehensive, showing us the audience it is alright to still be a bit uncertain to Sanjuro.

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    All this aided by some clever usage of music.

    The two representatives of the clans come in, Sanjuro is quick to outwit both of them. Another means to show off Sanjuro intelligence, and to see the beginning of Sanjuro’s plans really starting to unfold.

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    We are blacked out and fade back in. The back-story, the early stages of bonding with Sanjuro are already set. When we return to the from the cut to black, we get a bit of recapping and Sanjuro further elaborating on his plans.

    The movie can now really start, as a rather important event happens.

    Sanjuro learns of a possible truce, and fear his plans are in jeopardy. While the restaurant owner rejoices that no more blood will be shed.

    Sanjuro gives a stern reminder, that peace between two evils in only temporary. Sanjuro ensure us there is no other way to solve the problem, then to setup the clans to kill each other off. It is important as the audience that we are aware, that Sanjuro actions of killing, although similar to the gangster ideals, are for the better good and not to label him as a bad guy. Some reinforcement on this will be necessary and we will soon get it.

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    So far Sanjuro has proved himself the best fighter, and the smartest person in the town, His ability to execute his plan will go on with little trouble.

    But before we can get bored we are presented with a great foe.

    With Unosuke we again giving someone that looks different from the typical gang member. To further add a concern, we find he has something to equalize Sanjuro’s likely better swordsmanship-a gun.

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    For the first time, we seen Sanjuro concerned. Notice the hiding behind a window, although not a direct effect, still plays similar to the people hidden in fear on Sanjuro’s arrival.

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    To prove Sanjuro point, we see peace can not be truly had.

    Some gang member angry and plotting revenge due to the truce.

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    With Sanjuro hanging out in the restaurant, he happens to again overhear a conversation from two gang member regarding the killing of a official.

    Sanjuro goes after the two murders.

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    I suspect that audience would approve of Sanjuro killing the murders, but the fact he doesn’t comes as a surprise. This is even further highlighted by one of the murder pretending to be dead(as he assumed he would be) then standing up only to have his shirt cut.

    Showing that despite Sanjuro’s goal to kill nearly everyone, he is not a evil killer. Sanjuro is smart enough to know when to kill and when not to, in this case the murders are of much value alive.

    As a gift to Seibei, Sanjuro gives the two capture murders to him, so that he can blackmail, or defeat the man behing the murder, opposing gang leader Ushitora. We quickly see how fast the truce dissolves when one side sees a means to win, as Seibei begins to rejoice in the possible destruction of Ushitora.

    From that, Sanjuro is presented with some dancing prostitutes of Seibei’s.

    Sanjuro goes uninterested, another means to elevate his character as something great, and not typical.

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    A informal face-off of Sanjuro’s new foe. His pause and shoulder shrug shows a bit of concern.

    We don’t get to see much of Unosuke, so we must rely on Sanjuro to get a scene to what Unosuke is. With Sanjuro at least somewhat acknowledging the possible problem with Unosuke, Unosuke gets elevated to a higher level. A chance for Unosuke to be consider a true foe.

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    We can assume that Unosuke’s gun is of concern to Sanjuro, but now we even see that perhaps Unosuke could be as smart as Sanjuro. Sanjuro even giving a bit of crediting to Unosuke. Again though Sanjuro, we elevate Unosuke as a possible evil equal to Sanjuro.

    A bit of character showoff for Unosuke, we see his can kill quickly like Sanjuro, while also seeing him as a murder unlike Sanjuro. This is a attempt to avoid audience connection with Unosuke, even though we get to see little of him in the first place, having him always be evil, helps further increase the liking of Sanjuro and accept the actions of Sanjuro later.

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    We are giving a bit of heart breaking story- wife gets stolen because she is pretty, weak husband and kid are sad. This has some effect on Sanjuro, he may kill without problem, but he still has a soft spot.

    Sanjuro saves the wife, helps re-join the family and even gives all his money to them for escape. This should quickly seal the deal of seeing Sanjuro as a hero.

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    If that wasn’t enough we are reassured that Sanjuro is great…

    Further proof to the audience is that even the restaurant owner loves him, so much even, it makes Sanjuro feel “creepy”. Sanjuro is presented a letter from the re-joined family, as a means to highlight how great he is. From here the once reluctant restaurant owner, has pushed the audience to see Sanjuro to god-like status.

    This higher being allure to him, will come to great effect later on, and truly make the movie great.

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    Around 1hr 15mins has been spent building up Sanjuro from a stranger to a beloved friend, a superhero/god even.

    About time to bring him down to human status and really draw the audiences’ love for him.

    The rest of the film will focus are taking him from superhero/god status to ordinary man.

    Our interaction with Unosuke has been fairly limited, kept at a distance. Some efforts have been made to separated Unosuke from the other gang members and put him on level with Sanjuro to some degree. Unosuke stands out as a unknown, this making Unosuke feel outside the movie, but for good reason. Giving that Sanjuro can be assumed to have at least some worries about Unosuke, we can feel the majority likely comes from not being able to sum him up, as Sanjuro can do with everyone else. Unosuke still comes as a unknown, and for the audience we are held back from Unosuke, to feel as does Sanjuro. To some regards it is as though Unosuke has a spotlight on him everywhere he goes, his attire is bright and when he is on screen, everything else is not giving attention. Unosuke whole purpose is to not fit into the film, by doing so, he stays as a constant reminder that no matter how well Sanjuro’s plans are working out, Unosuke is still about.

    Then is should come to no surprise that although Sanjuro plans, and rescue of the kidnapped woman has gone on with flawless precision. There is still someone that is not so easily tricked- Unosuke.

    Sanjuro enjoying some eats the day after the rescue, when Unosuke comes in.

    Having already suspected Sanjuro’s involvement with the rescued woman, Unosuke finds the note from the rejoined family to solidify his suspension.

    Although with have seen Sanjuro have concern for Unosuke, we now see fear for the first time.

    Once again stills can not get this across.

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    Here is where the efforts of 1hr 15mins of connection building comes into play and really makes the movie.

    Perhaps a unexpected twist, Sanjuro is now in a position of defeat A assumed beating by Ushitora’s gang.

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    While we see Sanjuro down and out, we mustn’t forget that Unosuke is still strong.

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    Sanjuro is still out of the game, while Unosuke is killing the rival gang with great effectiveness and ease.

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    Some 21 minutes are used to show the downfall of Sanjuro, increase with some rather realistic moans of pain. After the audience has not to long ago become friend with Sanjuro, seeing him beating, comes to good effect in increasing a bond. This also goes to show the power of Unosuke, while making the audience despise him.

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    During Sanjuro’s recovery he comes up with an idea and practices on its execution to defeat Unosuke’s gun.

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    Of course lets not forget the effort that the restaurant owner exhibited to help the injured Sanjuro, the bond between restaurant owner/audience and Sanjuro is reminded and fully completed. Unless a deep bond and friendship is already had, there would be no reason for the restaurant owner to risk his life in helping out Sanjuro.

    During Sanjuro’s resurrection, he learns from the casket maker of the capture of restaurant owner due to his efforts in aiding the injured Sanjuro.

    This comes to concern to Sanjuro, and if he planned to delay his final fight with the Ushitora gang and Unosuke, he has now push forward all plans to come to the aid of his friend.

    Even the bond of Sanjuro with the restaurant owner Gonji, is as strong as the restaurant owner/audience with Sanjuro.

    Much how the restaurant owner risk his life to save Sanjuro, Sanjuro is willing to risk his life to fight to save him, even if all he has is a butcher’s knife. Luckily the casket maker has a sword to give him.

    A pissed off Sanjuro.

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    Sanjuro’s friend, the restaurant owner hanging, moaning in pain much the same way we saw Sanjuro moaning.

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    Sanjuro return spawns the final battle. The restaurant owner hanging as a reminder to our now reliance on Sanjuro to save the day. This is the return to power that was lost due to Sanjuro’s injuries. We the audience are no longer suppose to hold Sanjuro as a god, but instead something much more-a dear friend.

    (Of course the casket maker cuts down the restaurant owner, but that plays no role, as it is truly Sanjuro that save the restaurant owner, by allowing the casket maker the chance to cut him down.)

    Sanjuro comes into the fight alone, with a understanding the fight may not turn out good for him. It seems the fight is no longer Sanjuro just wanting to help a town, it has now gone to something personal. This due to Sanjuro friend the restaurant owner being capture, more then his own suffered injuries.

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    Sanjuro concern again comes down to just Unosuke with his gun.

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    Sanjuro shrugs off and continues on. This is Sanjuro after all–and he’s pissed off, just a calm and collective pissed off.

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    Sanjuro’s action comes to great surpise to Unosuke. For the first time Unosuke can not scare someone with his gun. We are finally certain that although Unosuke is above the typical gang member, he is still faking being tough. Where the other gang members used tattoos, rough looking clothing and attitude, Unosuke used a gun.

    Sanjuro calls Unosuke’s bluff by continuing to approach and not fearing Unosuke (Sanjuro didn’t truly fear Unosuke, but one would be stupid to not consider him a dangerous foe, not to mention the power of the gun still has a mystic to it in this time period to the Japanese.)

    Sanjuro is but a blur, not even a gun can out do him

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    With the throw of the knife by Sanjuro, disabling the gun (really the hand that holds it) . Unosuke is no longer any different then the other gang members and finished off with a quick cut.

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    Of course the ease for Sanjuro killing of the other gang members comes to no surprise, and they are done in quickly.

    As a reminder that Sanjuro is doing this for the better good, and not a cold blooded killer. Here he spares the life of the kid that ran away in the beginning of the movie. Sanjuro even offers a stern warning about trying to be a gangster.

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    The conversation with the dying Unosuke is a verification of the whole movie

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    A rejoining with friends as they take in the happenings, and reflect via dying Unosuke.

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    .

    .

    Job Done, Sanjuro leaves as he came, but instead leaves as a missed friend.


    Just wanted to mention, I dont believe this film would ever work without the amazing acting abilities of Mifune. It is the small facial movement and the small body movements that tell you everything. Without this skill to speak without speaking, no real bond could ever be achieved.

    While I’m at it, Inokichi played by Kato, is among the most brilliant performance I have ever seen. The counting with the finger, the stupid laughs, and the hilarious beating he gives the kidnapped woman’s husband all go to not only bring comedy into the movie, but offer some much need separation to Mifune’s character. Kato’s facial movements rival that of even Mifune’s and goes to show the skill level of actor’s Kurosawa was lucky to direct.

    Kato’s performance made even funnier considering this is beloved Shichiroji in Seven Samurai.

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    Jeremy

    never mind(ignore)

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    cocoskyavitch

    Just fantastic, Jeremy! What a pleasure to read and see. Your integration of analysis with image leaves no doubt about the development of Sanjuro’s appeal. This is the human part of the film. I, personally, would back up my admiration for Sanjuro to the very opening scenes where we see Mifune’s mighty back and the mountain-shown as equivalents-letting us know that this is a guy to be reckoned with. And, I confess that I love that iconic scene’s reiteration in the Indian Jones pics.

    [To stray off topic briefly, I’m confused to the sequence in which the master of Seibei runs away.

    I believe it is another means to show that Sanjuro is the real deal and the supposed master knows better then to pretend now. It does however work perfectly to Sanjuro‘s plan, by creating a demand for him.

    A rather unique shot.

    The master leaving is none other than Susumu Fujita-Sanshiro Sugataand, I forgot who noted it is Kurosawa saying goodbye to his previous leading man who has been replaced by Mifune. I thought it a good call. It also shows us that somebody else is wise to the stupidity of this battle, and yes, that he is also cowardly. It would almost taint Mifune’s choice, if it were not so clear that Mifune is the force orchestrating the faceoff. So, this is another opportunity to show us the way in which Mifune is different from what he appears to be.

    Here is a critique from the NY times from 1962 to compare the reception of the film when it was new”-something Jeremy did from a viewer’s fresh eye:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,827580-1,00.html

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    Vili Maunula

    Indeed, an excellent look at the way Mifune’s character is developed in the film. There were some points that I had not really considered before, like for example how Mifune is indeed developed into something of a god-figure and then made human again in the last third of the film. (Although, to me, he does look more like an ogre after he’s beaten…)

    The bit about Sanjuro looking at us when he comes up with his name is also very interesting. In a way, then, are we Sanjuro? Don’t we all want to?

    It was also only when reading your post, Jeremy, that I realised how Sanjuro’s disarming Unosuke with the throw of his knife actually seems to be directly taken from westerns. Or isn’t it by shooting the main villain’s gun hand that you disarm him, but still allow him the last gasp of breath during which he has the opportunity to leave the audience with something memorable to say?

    I also totally agree with you that Mifune does a brilliant job in this film with his subtle acting. I really can’t think of anyone else who could have pulled it off so brilliantly.

    As for Homma’s departure, at least Prince makes a big deal about the Fujita-Mifune encounter, and I agree with Coco that he has a point there.

    The idea of Kurosawa’s former leading man waving goodbye to Kurosawa’s current leading man (and to us) is very interesting, especially considering the roles that they play in the movie (Homma is, after all, replaced my Sanjuro). The film also seems somewhat self-referential throughout, and Prince also makes an interesting point about Sanjuro’s “set design” in the scene where he rearranges the hut to look like a fight had taken place there. In fact, Prince also suggests that the whole story is, in a sense, Sanjuro’s creation (although I don’t think that this is meant to be taken too literally).

    Thanks to Coco also for the link! That was one review I had never read before. A funny thing, by the way, with the following:

    [Kurosawa] never scolds an actor, though once, when an actor infuriated him, he turned to a horse that was standing near by and bellowed in the poor brute’s ear: “Idiot!”

    Isn’t baka (“idiot”), if you look at the characters with which it is written, “horse-deer”? It might of course be just a coincidence…

    And I think Kurosawa actually did scold an actor or two in his career… 😛

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    Jon Hooper

    What a wonderful read, Jeremy. It made a lot of things clear to me about why Yojimbo works so well, and also drew my attention to numerous things I’ve never really noticed. I think the key to the film’s success is indeed the way we warm to Sanjuro, as you say the way in which he is gradually elevated as a superhuman figure, only to be brought down to a flawed, human level. According to Richie, by the way, what proves his undoing is his compassion, which I think is interesting in itself.

    Much like the scratching that Sanjuro does, the way he eats rice, is a means to see Sanjuro relax, as warming up to him for the audience.

    Thanks for pointing out this detail. I think you’re right on target about the rice; I had never really thought about it consciously but it does bring us closer to the character. It might be interesting to compare the way and what he eats with the ceremonial fare presented to the inspector.

    As another means to separate, we find that the tough guy look of the gang members is nothing but a look.

    Absolutely. Looking at this again, I couldn’t help noticing how many of the thugs wear ill-fitting clothes. In fact, it’s almost as if their clothes are too big for them, as if they are children trying to act grown-up. Sanjuro, on the other hand, wears a rather worn and dirty robe, but looks every inch the samurai. He wears it well; it fits him.

    Although he is really looking out at the field in which to get his name, it is still a acknowledgment to the audience watching. This is as formal an introduction as Sanjuro will ever give.

    Great insight!

    For the first time, Sanjuro literary stands in the middle of two evils, not only that, he is high above them.

    This is a scene that deserves all the talking up it has received. Indeed he is superior to them (certainly in terms of intelligence, perhaps even morally, though the question of whether Sanjuro is exactly moral is of course a complex one), and his position is pivotal: everything depends on where he will throw his weight.

    It is important as the audience that we are aware, that Sanjuro actions of killing, although similar to the gangster ideals, are for the better good and not to label him as a bad guy.

    Agree that we are on his side. His motives, perhaps, are more open to question. Is it almost as if he is providing some service to humanity by cleaning up the streets of such scum?

    So far Sanjuro has proved himself the best fighter, and the smartest person in the town, His ability to execute his plan will go on with little trouble.

    Excellent point. Without Unosuke’s arrival to complicate matters, the film would effectively be over in terms of conflict – his job is easy, the outcome fixed. In some ways Sanjuro is like a gambler – he assesses the field, he toys with where to put his stake (someone else’s money, of course), and when he’s sure he’s virtually able to sit back and let the winnings come in. But he doesn’t count on Unosuke, the wildcard, who changes the state of play considerably.

    From that, Sanjuro is presented with some dancing prostitutes of Seibei’s.

    Sanjuro goes uninterested, another means to elevate his character as something great, and not typical.

    I think Kurosawa’s intention is to portray Sanjuro as someone who is not subject to appetite, whereas the other characters definitely are. They are addicted to greed, to killing, to indulgences of all sort. Sanjuro is frequently bored, distanced, restrained, cynical but arguably much closer to the samurai spirit of renunciation and service to an ideal (perhaps not an ideal here but a goal of some kind, a greater cause).

    Much how the restaurant owner risk his life to save Sanjuro, Sanjuro is willing to risk his life to fight to save him, even if all he has is a butcher’s knife.

    Your description of how here and elsewhere Sanjuro risks his life to protect others reminds us, I think, that while much has been written about how Sanjuro is an anti-hero, that he ammoral and self-serving, with perhaps only one slight lapse into compassionate action, he is still a long way from being on a level with the gang members. He may be no Gary Cooper, as Richie points out, but he still has the chinks in the armour that let the humanism shine through.

    Superb screen-shots by the way. One of the stills you used happens to be my favourite shot in the whole movie – the one where Sanjuro and the restaurant owner are facing opposite directions and the distance between them is reduced so that the thing looks flat (the result of the telephoto lens?).

    Thanks again, Jeremy, for posting, and giving us so much to think about.

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    Jeremy

    I really intended to get a bit deeper and explain some of the comments further, but I had a hell of time getting the right words, and never was happy with what I was saying. So I had no choice but to delete most things and sum everything up. The result is I mentioned very little on Unosuke, and it was him, that I intended to spend a great deal on.

    It’s rather incomplete but hopefully it has some value.

    Vili Maunula wrote 3 hours ago:

    The bit about Sanjuro looking at us when he comes up with his name is also very interesting. In a way, then, are we Sanjuro? Don’t we all want to?

    I do think at times we are placed to be Sanjuro, and to carry his ideals and attitude. You would need to maintain admiration for someone to connect, so for the audience to want to be Sanjuro due to his admirable ideals would be natural. Sanjuro shows strength to the point few are willing to do, but wish they could.

    Vili Maunula wrote 4 hours ago:

    It was also only when reading your post, Jeremy, that I realised how Sanjuro’s disarming Unosuke with the throw of his knife actually seems to be directly taken from westerns. Or isn’t it by shooting the main villain’s gun hand that you disarm him, but still allow him the last gasp of breath during which he has the opportunity to leave the audience with something memorable to say?

    Yeah, it would be a shame for the villain to not know he is dying. A instantly dead villain doesn’t allow for him to give a retrospect to his ways. I dont know if is so much a copy to the westerns, then a simply requirement for reflection and closure.

    Vili Maunula wrote 3 hours ago:

    Isn’t baka (“idiot”), if you look at the characters with which it is written, “horse-deer”? It might of course be just a coincidence…

    It is, I never noticed that before-then again I never bother to see how baka is written.

    Jon Hooper wrote 2 hours ago:

    One of the stills you used happens to be my favourite shot in the whole movie – the one where Sanjuro and the restaurant owner are facing opposite directions and the distance between them is reduced so that the thing looks flat (the result of the telephoto lens?).

    This one?

    image

    Since the distance between the lens and the subjects is much greater then the distances in the two subjects and surroundings. The visual spacing is lost making everything look flat.

    Yes the the advantage and sometimes disadvantage of long lens. In Kurosawa’s case used to some great effect.

    Sometimes a forced and unnatural closeness like in the screenshot, where the two bodies look to almost share the same plane, can be a powerful effect, even if the audience doesn’t even realize it what is being done. (I believe they are sitting opposite ends of a bench and you could fit another person between them, but they look like they are sitting right next to each other)

    It is short, the base theme to the write up, that although most if not all that I written would not be noticed to a new viewer, or even seasoned. It still plays very important emotional effect, without the audience even knowing it. Of course it is still just my take, and doesnt really mean it is what I say it is.

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    Jon Hooper

    That’s the one, Jeremy. I love the way Kurosawa has framed that shot, the symmetry, Mifune’s stance with his sword resting on his chin, the way the lens makes it look flat. Thanks for the technical info – I have read a lot about how Kurosawa used the telephoto lens (in Prince for example) but have never had how it works put so simply and so clearly. There are many great shots in Kurosawa where he achieves this effect but this is one of my favourites.

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    cocoskyavitch

    You are far too humble, Jeremy. You said and made visible your points so very well!

    Jon said of your writing, Jeremy:

    Your description of how here and elsewhere Sanjuro risks his life to protect others reminds us, I think, that while much has been written about how Sanjuro is an anti-hero, that he ammoral and self-serving, with perhaps only one slight lapse into compassionate action, he is still a long way from being on a level with the gang members. He may be no Gary Cooper, as Richie points out, but he still has the chinks in the armour that let the humanism shine through.

    Actually, that whole mercenary/self-serving/nihilism thing gets a fair trouncing in Jeremy’s post. What a relief!

    In another post in another thread, Vili talked about the pervasive two dimensionality of Yojimbo. Miyagawa’s absolutely brilliant framing, compositional devices and use of graphic space is much more easily shown that discussed. Thanks, Jeremy.

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    Vili Maunula

    Food

    I forgot to say that I totally agree that seeing Sanjuro eating is something that really brings us closer to the character. Again, this is something that I never actually thought about before, so thanks for pointing it out!

    What I have often consciously marvelled at, however, is the brilliance with which Mifune plays out those scenes. Eating, I think, is something that very few actors are able to perform well. Sometimes, I wonder if this is because after the third take you are already too accustomed to the taste of the food (or just full up)!

    But Mifune does it really well. My favourite eating scene in Yojimbo is the one where he eats rice balls directly from the stew. You can see that the food is hot, and Mifune’s face shows that as well, but at no point does he over-act or stress the hotness of the food. It feels very natural and realistic.

    Clothes

    Jon’s point about the ill-fitting clothes is also really good. Maybe that’s also why Unosuke wears those *shudder* stripes. The clothes actually fit him, but don’t fit the town.

    Sanjuro as an anti-hero

    I meant to start a separate thread on this, but haven’t got around to doing so. And since we all seem to agree with Sanjuro not quite being the anti-hero he is often made up to be, I guess there is no point for a separate thread.

    In any case, I think that Goodwin (166) words it really well in Intertextual Cinema (which I think could have discussed Yojimbo in much more detail):

    The Mifune character in [Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Sanjuro] is an antihero in appearance and in some of his behavior, but his character proves ultimately to have strength, integrity, and a personal code of justice. The antithetical construct of such heroism is dependent on intertextual dynamics of characterization that reverse codes of idealized heroic appearance but does not ultimately negate heroic ideals.

    This, I feel, is a far more accurate description of Mifune’s character in Yojimbo than for example Richie‘s suggestions that “Mifune is just as monstrous as any of the monsters” and that “Mifune is naturally bad” (149).

    I do not, however, necessarily agree with Goodwin in that “Sanjuro embarks on a campaign against corruption and injustice as an indulgence to his own whims” (167). It is true that, to borrow Jeremy’s words, Sanjuro “gets giddy when everything goes to plan”, but for me the film doesn’t suggest that Sanjuro is dealing with the town simply because he happens to feel like doing so. I think that his actions towards the separated family and the inn keeper show that despite of acting tough, Sanjuro ultimately has specific reasons for being there.

    I think Jon is right in that “he is providing some service to humanity by cleaning up the streets”.

    Unosuke

    Both of you raise good points about Unosuke’s role in the movie. As I am somewhat (pleasantly) stuck with Prince’s suggestion (in the commentary) that we could see Sanjuro as a director of his own show, I would say that it is then possible to view Unosuke as a competing director trying to steal Sanjuro’s production. (Leone? :razz:)

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    cocoskyavitch

    Samurai Realities V.S. Romantic Sensibilities

    I think Donald Richie is often a bright guy with lots of good insight, but, occasionally, he gives me a sense of being a rather fussy old hen, and sometimes a bit of a prattler who speaks before he thinks because of the momentum and the pleasure of speaking that he gets from yabbling forth. That famous quote of his, that “The Idiot” is just the book, filmed. Well, hells bells, there’s no “just” about it-it is an heroic task of translation from one medium to another even if one doesn’t think the results are interesting or even very good. Silly Donald.

    Vili deconstructs Richie’s statement, with a preface quote from Goodwin, then:

    This, I feel, is a far more accurate description of Mifune’s character in Yojimbo than for example Richie’s suggestions that “Mifune is just as monstrous as any of the monsters” and that “Mifune is naturally bad” (149).

    This suggestion of Richie’s, that Mifune is “naturally bad” in Yojimbo is ridiculous. At the very most there is a suggestion of ambiguity about his motivation…enough for a fun discussion. But, in no way is he “bad”.

    The antithetical construct of such heroism is dependent on intertextual dynamics of characterization that reverse codes of idealized heroic appearance but does not ultimately negate heroic ideals

    This is Goodwin’s unfortunate way of making a good point. I already have complained about Goodwin. I disbelieve in “intertextuality” as a principle when discussing visual art. Art is emphatically not a language-and sometimes, a thing is more important for its thingness than for its symbolism or referents. Harumph. Anyway, Goodwin, though way out on an errant and boring limb with his pseudo-philosophical construct, still makes a beautiful point about appearance VS ideals.

    The book and its cover? Or, the presentational VS the moral? My brain is too lazy to say more.

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    Jeremy

    cocoskyavitch wrote 8 hours ago:

    You are far too humble, Jeremy.

    HA-wait till you meet me in person.

    Anti-Hero

    I’m not sure what an anti-hero really is and why there a supposed negative to it. Because the hero has problems, he is no longer worthy of hero status but instead a non-hero-hero?

    A hero is the truest would be avoid of human flaws, no personal view points, no real self thought, no just about anything it means to be human. There is no value in perfection without knowing the trouble in which to obtain it, and the understand that perfection doesnt exist. If the hero is perfect in every regard, for what reason should we be thankful, or find them admirable, if the their efforts come at no cost.

    It would be like a billionaire dropping a penny in a little orphan’s cup.

    Should the world now stop and be grateful for the billionaire doing something that was likely done just to rid of the worthless penny.

    Like all those batman and superman comics, they only stop the bad guy, never kill them, just to be morally perfect. Yet they keep coming back and messing everyone’s life up, but no the hero settles for the temporary solution.

    The person that helps others, despite their own problems, and mistakes, is the one to with gratitude should be given.

    Sanjuro gains nothing, suffers greatly, makes mistakes and it’s debatable I suppose if he handled everything perfectly. -That’s to say he could of invited everyone for tea, and talk things over, rather then chop them down. I think it stupid and naive, but it was option. Sanjuro got the problems solved, maybe wrong, but what works-works.

    Vili Maunula wrote 8 hours ago:

    Food

    The eating of the rice balls from the stew, is something I should of used instead, rather then what I did.

    If the eating scenes where not intended as a means for the audience see a relax Sanjuro and for the audience to feel relax. I would assume that his ill manners of eating directly from the stew pot, stabbing the rice ball, walking while eating wouldnt be given so much attention. Perhaps I’m putting too much Japanese formal eating customs into it, and maybe Sanjuro isnt a formal person, but its all in good manners really, and Sanjuro appears to have that.

    If the audience is suppose the get the feeling of being friends, then having Sanjuro eating “improperly” would be fine, but if the audience was instead intended to stay at a distance, then I would think more public eating habits would be shown.

    Stuff like this is present in Ozu films, where things are maintain very formal,as Ozu typically doesnt want the audience to feel relaxed to the characters.

    cocoskyavitch wrote 4 hours ago:

    I think Donald Richie is often a bright guy with lots of good insight, but, occasionally, he gives me a sense of being a rather fussy old hen, and sometimes a bit of a prattler who speaks before he thinks because of the momentum and the pleasure of speaking that he gets from yabbling forth.

    Not to disrespect Richie, but I feel much the same. There is little in which I agree with him and most of what he says, I wonder it’s just his ego of being a “expert”. I rarely see his logic, it’s often typically of those that see works with a “I could do better” opinion of themselves. While having little knowledge to what it really takes to make an effective movie, and non-stop problems and compromises that must be made. –Of course that’s now just my ego showing. I do however value the thoughts of fans in this site, far higher then “expert” opinion.

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    Vili Maunula

    Jeremy Quintanilla wrote 15 hours ago:

    I’m not sure what an anti-hero really is and why there a supposed negative to it. Because the hero has problems, he is no longer worthy of hero status but instead a non-hero-hero?

    The answer to the question what constitutes a “hero” and what an “anti-hero” is probably quite subjective and context-dependant. The latter concept, however, should in any case be something of an intertextual construct derived from the former.

    On the very basic level, we might perhaps consider a “hero” something like a central character who displays courage, moral values accepted by the society in which he is a hero, and a sense of purpose towards the common good. A hero is also someone who we can accept and to bond with.

    An “anti-hero”, then, should be a central character who lacks some or all of these qualities, yet does not come across as a villain. And I don’t personally see Sanjuro belonging here.

    Perhaps one reason why Sanjuro has become an anti-hero is that the “spinoff character”, Eastwood’s man-with-no-name, became one in the later dollar films. Which actually provides an interesting intertextual twist. Yet, even Eastwood’s character isn’t, in my opinion, really an anti-hero yet in A Fistful of Dollars (which I watched yesterday and will write about a bit later).

    Jeremy makes good points about the (in)formalism of Sanjuro’s eating and the way it makes us feel at home with him.

    As for Richie, I personally think that his line of reasoning is always interesting to follow, although at times it does take very odd turns. He also often seems to fail to check the facts properly (or relies too much on his memory), especially on the commentary tracks. But all in all, I’m happy that his input is around.

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    Jon Hooper

    Yet, even Eastwood’s character isn’t, in my opinion, really an anti-hero yet in A Fistful of Dollars (which I watched yesterday and will write about a bit later).

    I don’t think Eastwood’s character (which is not the same in all the films – he plays Joe, Manco & finally Blondie or The Good) is ever really the kind of anti-hero people often think he is. But as you say, an anti-hero is someone who lacks some of the accepted qualities of a hero. The fact that his character is motivated by money (at least in the later films), the fact that he is often ruthless and self-serving, these qualities mark him out from the traditional hero.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Vili and all-would there be a cultural difference in the concept of “hero”-that is: the Greek-devolved western hero v.s. an Asian, specifically Japanese-devolved type? Is there a word in Japanese for “hero” ? Can anyone point out where and when in the literature the concept of “hero” emerges, and what the hero’s qualities are?

    I ask, because the drawing of the Greek type is fairly clear, and we can easily trace it back to origins. In the western concept, the hero is beneath the gods. Flawed, by his half-breed nature as part mortal and part immortal. We also know the most common cause for a hero’s downfall is hubris.

    (Interestingly, hubris is often given to criminals as a cause for failure in modern western film. We all know the bad guy who is so pleased with himself that he starts some long diatribe about why he is going to kill the good guy, then, ‘cuz he is yakking away too much, the good guy escapes and the bad guy is brought to justice or killed. I think of this as the Batman-tv series plotline solution).

    Any insight?

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    Vili Maunula

    You raise an interesting point, Coco.

    According to Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC, the most straightforward Japanese word for “hero” is ?? (romanized as eiyuu). Curiously enough, however, the Japanese Wikipedia entry for “hero” uses the word ???? (romanized as hiiroo), which is an English loan word from “hero”. As I don’t know what the overall state of the Japanese Wikipedia is (that is, how well it is generally written), I don’t want to speculate what this means.

    As for what the actual qualities of a hero are, or when and where the concept originated, I cannot answer, and I doubt anyone really can. While the word is of Greek origin, and the Western concept of heroism has certainly been greatly influence by Greek stories, I would suppose that there were many heroes in literature before the Greeks. Take for example the Epic of Gilgamesh, whose main character certainly qualifies as a hero. Ancient Mesopotamia in general was quite good at producing epic hero stories, and I don’t see why such stories shouldn’t have existed earlier as well.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Vili,

    I’m thinking about the idea of the hero, it’s place in the two cultures we are thinking about, and trying to get a handle on the cultural assumptions that formed the stew of the the time frame within which Kurosawa was creating. Yojimbo is often seen in the west as introducing an “anti-hero”. The effect Yojimbo had on “spaghetti westerns” and the reverberations into American revisionist westerns have something to do with the western reading of what Kurosawa has presented in his film.

    I am trying to understand some of the things I will call “Received Knowledge”-some of the cultural assumptions-that might have been part of the unspoken river in which Kurosawa was swimming.

    We have this whole western civilization thing-I mean, if you take a western civ class, they will trace European roots back to Mesopotamia…(whether or not you think that’s a good idea) and you probably will read Gilgamesh and then, they will likely touch base on Egypt, but then jump to Greece as the important, brilliant foundation of our mythologies, philosophy, legal systems, etc. and then some atttention will be paid to the Bible’s moral instruction. This is my take on long-held western education’s attitudes toward our foundation mythologies.

    In general, you need to take a non-western or comparative or global course to investigate other traditions such as native American, Indian, Chinese, African, etc. Some universities require a knowledge of non-western cultures as a condition of graduation-an acknowledgement of the collapse of American hegemony, no doubt, framed though, in a positivist view of muticulturalism as a “good thing”.

    (Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind rues the changing fact of communal education in the West today-once the shared canon of books is exploded, and classics-those with roots in ancient Greece and Rome replaced, we lose a shared sense of values-and the door is opened to relativism. )

    Anyway, my point is that our attitudes about what constitues the “west” and “east” are now less about our historically respected founding mythologies-since those have lost flavour and favour in the western academic mind, and certainly in the hearts of schoolboys and girls across the lands-and we are in the midst of a great revisionist view of the world and our places in it! There can be no Heinrich Schliemann dreaming that the Trojan War was real, since kids don’t even know anything about the Trojan War today unless they see the movie with Brad Pitt! (Or, they might watch 300 to have those old romantic notions of Spartans revived.) The Iliad and the Odyssey are no longer standard reading. The western canon has collapsed, but it was not yet on life-support in Kurosawa’s youth.

    So, going back to the time of Kurosawa’s youth, upbringing, and maturity, and examining the worldviews of the west and east of that past might be instructive in understanding how Yojimbo relates to other heroes in the Japanese mythology. I think, though, that Jon began that investigation in another post.

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