“Agrigatou gozaimashita” should be the words of any moviegoer once they have finished watching a film made by the legendary Akira Kurosawa. The cinema we are spoilt with today has undoubtedly been influenced by this master’s ingenious marriage between simplicity and technicality in filmmaking. 1962’s Sanjuro is a praiseworthy addition to the Kurosawa saga of Samurais and sword-strikingly good filmmaking.
Everybody who’s seen at least one Kurosawa flick knows the director’s fondness of the swagger thespian Toshiro Mifune. The chemistry between actor and director is on par with the duo of Robert DeNiro and Martin Scorsese, if not better. It’s easy to see future cinematic badasses like The Man With No Name and Han Solo have mirrored the moral complexity, sophistication and coolness Mifune effortlessly brings to the enigmatic Sanjuro. While Mifune draws the audience in like a black hole, one cannot forget the subtlety Kurosawa utilises with this film. The simple plot actually benefits the film, as it doesn’t distract from Kurosawa’s disciplinary direction of the cast and elements of film.
Now that I’ve praised this holy cinematic pair, allow me to dive into the various elements of the film. I am a sucker for films that are unapologetically fun in their tone, and allow their viewers to participate in the action. From a technical perspective, the cinematography and sound mixing is flawless, and the costumes are absolutely enthralling. The dialogue laden throughout the film reminds me how the best scriptwriting frequently comes from foreign films. Not only is the verbal jousting concise, but there are several pieces of wisdom that should remain polished in anyone’s consciousness. Unsurprisingly, most of it is spoken by Sanjuro, who reminds us to be practical and perceptive in any given situation, choose our friends wisely, and carry a wisecracker’s sense of humour with us at all times. Some might say that the messages of the film are force-fed to the audience, but if they are still relevant five decades after the film’s release, then who are we to judge?
Being the ebullient film nerd I am, I constantly remembered how many directors, especially Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, have drawn inspiration from Kurosawa films. The latter has constantly mentioned how Kurosawa’s 1958 caper The Hidden Fortress was the inspiration for Star Wars, but I think Sanjuro is even more of a gold mine in terms of its influence on his unanimously popular space opera saga. Sanjuro resembles Obi-Wan Kenobi in his eccentric yet intelligent demeanour and ragamuffin-like costume, while the band of fools parallel the relationship between R2-D2 and C-3PO. I’ll save my nerdy thesis on similarities between Kurosawa’s films and the Star Wars saga for later, but at this point, I want to emphasise just how influential Kurosawa’s style has had on both Hollywood directors and indie filmmakers like myself. Perfectly timed to a 96 minute runtime, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Sanjuro, a work of art from one of the greatest cinematic dyads.
Rating - ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ¾