Tag Archives: foreign language

Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Seven Samurai – 130

Seven Samurai

In this episode, Mark and Sam discuss The Lego Movie and a few other movies/games, but then move onto 3 Kurosawa movies: Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Seven Samurai.

Seven Samurai 5/5

Seven Samurai

Here’s the short version: Superb, one of the greatest movies of all time.

Here’s the long version: This is a terrific film, and the version I saw at 3 hours, 26 minutes really shouldn’t have a single moment removed, in my opinion. It moved at a good pace, never faultered in maintaining dramatic tension, and uses its sparse dialogue to get to the heart of the matter straight away, with feeling like monologuing or exposition. Almost every scene lodges itself in your memory as distinct – a sure sign of a very well-put together movie.

Of the 7, I think maybe 3 of the samurai characters were a little underdeveloped, though not to the level of just being a blank. That leaves 4 distinct and interesting characters though, the leader Kambei, the master swordsman Kyuzo, the ‘fool’ Kikuchiyo, and the Apprentice Katsushiro.

Kurosawa picked his characters well. Kyuzo is one extreme of the samurai, the dedicated master who cares only for his art (though even this extreme has a human side…. we see him laugh as hard as anyone at Kikuchiyo’s antics on the horse, and smile sardonically as he wants to sleep and gets some hero worship from Katsushiro) and still as a rock, with Kikuchiyo at the other end – not too skilled, but brave, fearless, angry, emotional and funny, and scratching and twitching like a dog with a terrible flea infestation and a nervous disposition. Contrasting Kambei and his experience we get the Apprentice, who wants to learn and have glory, but lacking in any sort of knowledge about what needs to be done to actually fight the bandits or handle the villagers.

Like I say, the whole thing is a pleasure to watch, and there are a dozen+ standout scenes in the movie, but the personal standouts for me are:

  • The intensity of Kambei when watching Kyuzo for the first time…you know this old experienced warrior is watching and appreciating a master at work
  • Where the old farmer has lost the rice and gets scolded, and starts to pick up the rice thrown in anger, one grain at a time
  • Kikuchiyo railing at the samurai about how the villagers are cowardly and murderous, but it is the samurai that made them that way
  • Kikuchiyo sitting next to the bandit with the gun and bantering with him
  • Kambei drawing arrows in the rain in the midst of battle
  • The death of Kikuchiyo…he’s so lively it’s kind of stunning when he falls face-first into the dirt after getting the coward and lies so still. So Un-Hollywood, and so much more stunning and moving for it.

Sanjuro 4/5

Sanjuro

Whilst not as thoroughly engaging or immersed in a coherent story as the similar Yojimbo (and there’s debate as to whether this is a sequel, or different character), this is still a lot of fun. With very little dialogue, we have characters who reveal their true nature by their words and actions (the mother is extremely wise, as is the father, who we only see at the end), and it’s very enjoyable to see Mifune cut and chop his way through hordes of guards like they were shop dummies.

It’s Mifune being magnificent that really makes this movie, and its fun to see this mighty warrior have to think a bit more than fight, at the mother’s request to avoid violence. There’s also some other really nice touches, like a guard that’s been captured who, so taken with the mother’s naïve trust, acts with respect and honour to her, and does exactly what he’s told, and is genuinely happy for the men who support her when things go their way.

Fun, fine and will put a smile on your face for much of the time.

Yojimbo 4.5/5

Yojimbo

Wonderful Eastern, with Tishuro Mifune spending the first 3rd of the movie munching rice, meat and other assorted goodies, drinking sake and killing tough-talking bandit types, whilst nonchalantly bringing the town to a boiling tension as he plays one gang against the other in assorted ways.

The bombastic jangling sound design, Mifune’s charismatic killer, the silly gurning faces of the heavies, and Kurosawa’s wonderful eye for composing shots and letting the camera enjoy the movement all adds up to a real treat and highmark of samurai genre movies.

The daddy of Lone Wolf and Cub movies, and the partial granddaddy of the impressive recent 13 Assassins.

Recommended.

Yeux Sans Visage 3.5/5

Yeux Sans Visage

There is an odd mix of poetic and delicate sensibility and gore in this movie. It has some quite haunting and striking imagery – and this, I think, is the thing that will stay with me above all else – but also quite jarring and wincey graphic surgery (oh, how they must have dropped their jaws in the 50s to this).

Its pedigree is obvious I think – It reminds me of both Cocteau (particularly La Belle et La Bete) in its lyrical bits, and Clouzot in its more graphic parts (I’m thinking of Les Diaboliques).

Still, with all this, it seems a little overrated to be on so many ‘top X horror movies of all time’ lists. It’s definitely one to see, and I’m glad I’ve seen it, but I don’t think it’s quite as good as it’s sold.

Alida Valli was rather good I think (I know her from The Third Man at a young age, and Suspiria at an older age), and really stands out as one of the main players.

That central performance by wraith-ish daughter is really elegant and ghostly though.

Julia’s Eyes 3/5

Julia's Eyes

This thriller has a pretty great central performance, and like others have noted, owes more to the legacy of Italian giallo movies like Deep Red that Spanish horror. However, it is very engaging, and really keeps you tense for the first act and most of the second, but when you get a concrete idea of what exactly is going on, the logical flaws and ideas raised in the first act feel a little dishonest and inconsistent with the last act.

Given this, I don’t think the movie has a high level of rewatchability, but I did enjoy it enough, but felt a little disappointed in the last act, when what was going on became clear.

Didn’t work for me because of it, but as I said, the main central performance was terrific, despite this.

The Killer 3.5/5

The Killer

Parts of this film have not aged well. The parts that have aged well are the insanely great action pieces – if there’s gunfire, you’re gold. To some degree if there’s doves, churches, candles, hospitals, or fast cars, you’re also gold. It’s the rest of it that is distinctly shaky. While some of the more thoughtful scenes look and sound great (reminiscent of Sergio Leone and Ennio Moricone), other’s have bad dialogue, endless emo grimacing, and quite terrible synth music.

So it’s 80s, and parts haven’t aged well. But the action stuff and the cool of Jeff (this film is channelling Le Samourai, right?) allows you to forgive the more creaky parts of it.

Also, did the villain have a major share in a white sweatsuit business? Because all the cannon-fodder henchmen looked like that’s were they got their outfits…

Fermat’s Room 3.5/5

Fermat's Room

Nicely made film that looks great, and solid script and performances. The central conceit intrigues right up until you find out exactly who is responsible, and the revelation doesn’t live up to the original promise, and as you think it through, the logical flaws start to be bothersome. In some respects, it’s a slicker version of 1997’s Cube, but that movie at least had the balls to not explain itself – and the explanation here makes the film weaker by explaining the mystery. Still, great first and second acts.

Episode 002 House of Flying Daggers, Top 5 Graphic Novels

In this episode, Sam and Mark review the arty martial arts movie House of Flying Daggers, pick the top 5 graphic novels, and discuss games such as Fear, Just Cause 2, and some old TV shows, including Married With Children and Red Dwarf