Sanjuro stars Toshiro Mifune in this samurai film from the early 1960’s, directed by Japanese film auteur Akira Kurosawa. It follows Sanjuro, a wandering samurai who is astonishingly unkempt and unconventional, in stark contrast to the young samurai that follow him are are very tight and formal.
While it is said to be a comedy, I only found it occassionally funny, although this might just be a thing with me not getting all the subtleties. But otherwise, if you’re familiar with Westerns, such as the Man With No Name trilogy, you will likely be able to orient yourself quite quickly, considering the cross cultural nature of the conventions of jidaigeki films and westerns. Mifune displays himself an incredible talent offering an immense amount of realism and character into Sanjuro, with an incredible amount of depth coming through pure expression.
A black and white film, it holds up very well visually with brilliant lighting and sets that for the most part I can only assume were shot on location. If it wasn’t on location, then they’re very impressive sets, because the film just looks great, especially with Kurosawa’s camerawork. However, it might just be a technical problem with the print the digital master was created from, but there are occassional oddities in the editing that don’t seem intention and are more like slight technical mistakes, which for a very brief moment take you out of the experience. In regards to the violence, there are fights but the sounds aren’t as bombastic with the clanging of metal on flesh like newer films might be and there’s very little blood which is fine, because when there is blood, it is more impactful. Fight choreography is also excellent, especially in the final fight of the film.
Should you watch Sanjuro? Yes, especially if you haven’t seen any films in the jidaigeki genre and like westerns. It’s an enjoyable adventure of a film with an excellent performance, beautiful visuals and a lot of heart. Check it out.