Thursday, May 20, 2010
A classic film can’t garner it’s following on nostalgia alone; it must both change expectations and hold up over time in the face of imitations, of which some are even better (A Fistful of Dollars is debatable). Yojimbo has the style, attitude, and versatility you expect from a classic. It’s sarcastic, tough-as-nails hero, Sanjuro gives us the only humanity that which we wish to connect with. Save the innkeeper and the casket maker, the cast is a composition of crooks, murders, and altogether fowl looking characters. The Villains have never so outnumbered the heroes in film. To boot, both warring families in this desolate town are greatly developed. They are comical, self-righteous, and unpredictable, but most of all they are believably of this earth. Only Sanjuro with his seemingly inhuman swordsmanship has any grasp of the teetering relationship of the two sides.
This leads to the greater conflict than the jeopardy of this town (after all, its populous is almost nothing but these villains). The families are only man and capable of mans worst. Sanjuro rises above them and toys with their dispute like a deity. Indeed this is reinforced by his regular accession to the bell tower to watch events unfold in the streets below. This is the by far the most pleasurable portion of the film: playing god. With no real motive or obvious goal, Sanjuro simply bats both sides back and forth until their crimes become so great as to destroy much more than themselves. Perhaps the moral is man should not mettle in god’s place. Ultimately our hero is forced to destroy these monsters he had a part in making. He becomes a plague you could say.
Kurosawa often combined mad humor with cynicism and Yojimbo arguably embodies his mantra more so than even Seven Samurai. It’s harsh, awkwardly funny, one of the all time greatest samurai films. It’s a classic.