Thursday, April 7, 2011

Monthly Classics #4

Release Date : April 25th, 1961
Director : Akira Kurosawa
Starring : Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yoko Tsukasa, Isuzu Yamada

A wandering Ronin (samurai without a master) arrives at a small town ruled by gambling, controlled by two competing crime lords. Initially he was ambivalent towards it all, but he then hatches a scheme to get both bosses to hire him for protection against the other. But what he's really doing is to topple down both men by showing that they are both their own worst enemies.

After making several mentions of the legendary director Akira Kurosawa, I thought I'd feature one of his films that is right up there among my favourites. Coincidentally this month will be the 50th anniversary of its release, so this month's classic has a really nice ring to it.

And anytime is a good time to watch Toshiro Mifune in action...
Does the premise of the movie sound familiar? It should. Akira Kurosawa isn't just a famous Japanese director, his works are almost vital to the development of cinema in general. So it should come to no surprise that people have remade and adapted his works many times over, and this one is no exception.

A man whose loyalty is in question, appears to go back and forth between two bosses, only to pit his employers against each other. Yeap, Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars [1964] starring Clint Eastwood is a direct remake of this movie given only a change in setting. In case you're not into old movies or Westerns in general, does Lucky Number Slevin [2006] ring any bells? It should.

If you're interested to see where it all began, this is a must see. You see, another thing about Akira Kurosawa is that he wasn't just a guy with stories to tell, the dude had a great eye for visuals. On an unrelated note, his vision becomes increasingly poorer as he aged and had to do most of his directing through the help of an aide. It kind of calls to mind other amazing individuals like Beethoven, who wrote killer scores while deaf.

Even if you're not into this whole thing with the artsy-fartsy, Yojimbo is by itself a good movie to watch for the sake of entertainment. Who doesn't love a good samurai movie?

Despite the gap in time and possibly some culture barriers, I daresay none of it would feel jarring at all because it features many conventions of a cool movie that survived to this day; an anti-hero, a one-man war against greater odds, combine that with Kurosawa's beautiful cinematography, this is a timeless piece.

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