Close Up

12 December 2015: Yôjimbô



Akira Kurosawa
1961 | 106 min | B/W | 35mm  

"Partly inspired by George Stevens’s Shane (1952), Kurosawa’s quintessential "samurai/western" Yôjimbô ("The Bodyguard") thrives on this cross-cultural synergy, right down to the soundtrack. As Mifune’s enigmatic masterless samurai roams into a desolate town overrun by grotesque rival criminal gangs, the whistling wind whisks leaves down deserted streets through which a dog runs with a severed human hand clamped in its mouth and the grimy residents, cowering behind shutters, fear to tread.  

The relatively modest 110-minute runtime makes this (and its shorter 1962 follow-up Sanjuro) a more accessible entry point into Kurosawa’s oeuvre than his more grandiose swords-and-samurai sagas. With Japan’s studio system increasingly incapable of accommodating the costs of the long shooting periods and large-scale sets and action sequences required for his productions, Kurosawa left his studio Toho after Red Beard (1965). Aside from the independently produced Dodes’ka-den in 1970 (remarkably, his first film in colour), he would not direct another film in his homeland for 15 years." – Jasper Sharp

Part of our Akira Kurosawa season