Yojimbo: A Timeless Classic
Yojimbo is a Japanese samurai movie made in 1961 by director Akira Kurosawa, a black and white movie which has gained a huge following around the world for its brilliance in cinema movie making.
Director Akira Kurosawa had been waiting for a movie like this all his film career, a big fan of war time movies and also westerns (mainly John Ford movies), here he delivers on all fronts and casting leading actor Toshiro Mifune as the samurai was a master stroke.
Toshiro Mifune portrays a Samurai who finds himself in the middle of a feud-torn Japanese village. Neither side is particularly honorable, but Mifune is hungry and impoverished, so he agrees to work as bodyguard (or Yojimbo) for a silk merchant (Kamatari Fujiwara) against a sake merchant (Takashi Shimura). He then pretends to go to work for the other, better to let the enemies tear each other apart. Imprisoned for his “treachery,” will the Samurai escape in time to see the feud come to an end or will be die by his own sword?
When Yojimbo was released in 1961, the movie was a huge success at the box office and shown the talents of the director and leading actor to the rest of the world. After its release the movie took Samurai films to a whole new level and influenced the genre so much that it started a new era of violent Samurai movies known as “cruel films”. The movie has everything going for it, amazing director, amazing leading actor and the rest of the cast is spot on.
The usage of the wide shots, showing the leading Samurai facing a sea of enemies is great to watch and the way they use the music to grab the feel of an emotion is great work. Each character brings there own unique feel to the film and if film makers want to know how to bring different characters through to the audience, then they should just watch this to find out.
About The Director
From what i have read, Akira Kurosawa was very much a hands on director, involved in nearly every aspect of his movies. He rehearsed with the actors, co-writes the scripts, sets up all the shots, over seas the designs and does all the editing. He directed over 30 movies in over 50 years of film making and he is regarded today as one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. He passed away on September 6, 1998 (aged 88).
In 1990, he accepted the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Posthumously, he was named “Asian of the Century” in the “Arts, Literature, and Culture” category by Asian Week magazine and CNN, cited as “one of the five people who contributed most to the betterment of Asia in the past 100 years”
Yojimbo has been remade and told in a variety of different movies since it’s release in 1961. A few after this movie came out, it was remade for International audiences for the Clint Eastwood film A Fistful of Dollars, a movie which is also very good showing Clint’s character “The Man with no name”, appear in a small town and take out the villains. Last Man Standing (1996), directed by Walter Hill and starring Bruce Willis, is an officially authorized remake of Yojimbo. At the closing of Episode XXIII of the animated series Samurai Jack, a triumphant Jack walks off alone in a scene (and accompanied by music) influenced by the closing scene and music of Yojimbo.