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Playing at the film club: Sanjuro (Akira Kurosawa)

Kagemusha – Shorter or Longer Cut?

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    C. Richard

    Hi, all. I discovered Kurosawa’s work about a year ago, and I’ve adored all the ones I’ve seen: Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Throne of Blood, and High and Low. I planning on watching Kagemusha next. I want the best experience of the film – should I watch the 180-minute version or the 160-minute version. I’m a fan of tight, economic storytelling (which Kurosawa is amazing at), and I was wondering which one I should watch. I know Kurosawa apparently came out with the 160-min cut later, and was more satisfied with it. But I want to know your personal takes on which one is better.

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    Vili Maunula

    It depends. I would argue that the 160-minute version is better as it is more tightly edited and doesn’t really lose anything while it gains in pacing. However, from the existing home video prints the 180-minute version has far better picture quality, at least if you can buy the Criterion release. If I had to choose between the current English releases, I would watch Criterion’s 180-minute copy rather than experiencing the film through the inferior Fox copy, even if the longer edit is slightly less snappy (and may not have been what Kurosawa ultimately intended, although this has been debated).

    The 180-minute version is also historically interesting in that it features Takeshi Shimura in his last role for Kurosawa. He doesn’t appear in the 160-minute cut as his brief appearances have been removed.

    About ten years ago, I did a detailed comparison of the two versions, if you are interested in the differences after watching either version.

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    Longstone

    I prefer the long version, but maybe that’s because it’s on Criterion Blu-ray and the quality is miles ahead of the old Fox DVD I have of the shorter version. The shorter version is available on Blu-ray now but I don’t have it and haven’t seen any reviews so can’t vouch for how good the transfer is. Simply to enjoy the quality I would recommend the Criterion Blu-ray. I don’t have any streaming services so can’t comment on what’s available or not via those.

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    C. Richard

    Thanks. I’ll try to watch the Criterion version. I’d probably watch the 160-min if there were no other variables, but I’d rather bask in the glory of the colour and cinematography of Criterion. (This will be my first colour Kurosawa film).

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