Toshiro Mifune returns as Sanjuro the Samurai in this entertaining and
funny companion film to the classic YOJIMBO.
shabbier than ever, he helps nine idealistic young
corruption in their clan. From the moment Mifune enters the
film, he owns it. His entrance is classic; sauntering into
warriors' quarters unannounced, scratching himself, hitching his
shoulders, yawning, looking uncannily like some previously
unknown Jackie Gleason character. There is zero explanation
where the Sanjuro character comes from or why is there.
who had a hand in the screenplay, most
likely assumed all of Japan had seen YOJIMBO and understood that this
is what Sanjuro does - shows up, offers help, and then demands food and
SANJURO is more of a
YOJIMBO. The comedy is light - we're not talking DUCK SOUP
swords here - and much of it is provided by Mifune himself, whose
Sanjuro this time seems intent on expending as little energy as
possible, no matter how grave any situation gets. When
by some of the corrupt clan members and tied up, he informs them he
will sell them a secret signal for fifty pieces of gold. When
they raise there swords and threaten to kill him, he doesn't even
expend the energy to be frightened. "Okay, make it thirty,"
his only reaction. It is Mifune, rather than Kurosawa, that
SANJURO as entertaining as it is. You could study Kurosawa's
shots and methods if you wish to, but if you do that, you'd be
missing one of Mifune's best, and funniest, performances for
Because SANJURO seems to be set in an earlier era than YOJIMBO, it is not as easy to keep track of what is going on unless you are well-versed in Japanese history (which I am not). In YOJIMBO, every character had a distinguishing face, character trait or role in the story, whereas in SANJURO, the bad guys and the good guys all come from the same clan, wear essentially the same clothes and even sport the exact same hair style. Few of the characters are anything but cardboard cutouts, chess pieces for Sanjuro to move around as he tries to bring down the corrupt members of the clan.
However, the piercing
eyes of Tatsuya
Nakadai (the gunman from YOJIMBO) are unmistakable. Once
he plays the main villain, though it is a lesser part than the one he
had in the previous film. Also memorable are the two women
in the film, Yuzo Kayama and Reiko Dan, who play a mother and
daughter who act as calming influences on
the group. Rescued from the villains, they sit in on planning
sessions with Sanjuro and the warriors and offer alternate, more
suggestions on how to conduct affairs. While Sanjuro's idea
of a subtle secret signal to the others is burning down a
sending some flower petals down a stream instead.
Not the film YOJIMBO is (although some would differ), SANJURO is nevertheless an extremely entertaining followup. Sometimes we think of great directors as always doing big, important work, endlessly creating milestones in film history: RASHOMON, THE SEVENTH SEAL, LA DOLCE VITA, RAGING BULL, PSYCHO. It is easy to forget that most of these directors were essentially entertainers who loved to make movies and many of their films are really just fun stories told well (except for a Marx Brothers movie, what's more fun than the endlessly rewarding CITIZEN KANE?). SANJURO is one of Kurosawa's least important films and conversely, it may be his most fun. - JB
Tsubaki Sanjuro (2007 - Japan)