Criterion/1962/96m/WS 2.00

     It's an image that will stay with you forever. It's the moment you've waiting for during the entire movie. The hero and villain meet in a defining sword fight. The power and suddenness is simply astounding. But, that is not the defining image of Sanjuro. Think about camellias cascading down a stream, white pedals floating happily, a lightness of spring as they bob on the water. That's the one, the image that captures the spirit of Sanjuro. You wouldn't expect flowers floating in a stream to reflect the essence of a samurai western, but this is the land of Kurosawa, a film director at the very top of the pantheon.

Mine's bigger than yours!. ©Columbia

     Sanjuro is the follow-up samurai film to Akira Kurosawa's international success, Yojimbo. The central character is the same wandering samurai that delighted on  the foibles of a town in turmoil in the former film. Some of his gruff edges have been softened for Sanjuro. He's still dangerous, he's still unkempt, but he's more hero and not as dark. This is a much lighter film in tone than Yojimbo. Elements from earlier film are repeated, perhaps even refined. Kurosawa delights in the playfulness of Sanjuro. Cinematically, Sanjuro is a much more attractive realization. Once again, Sanjuro is in the middle of a conflict and dances between two feuding factions with the agility of a ballet master while wielding his sword with legendary mastery. 
    Toshiro Mifune is the epitome of cool as Sanjuro. No one rolls a shoulder with such grace nor strides towards an enemy with more confidence. For those who have forgotten, Yojimbo and Sanjuro are the templates for Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. American icon of "cool" Clint Eastwood perfected his screen image in those Leone westerns. 
    The widescreen image is slightly cropped at 2.0 cutting off some compositions like a merciless stroke of a samurai sword. Contrast range is quite nice from transfer elements in good condition. Very nice black level. Shadow detail is revealing without being washed out. The image is sharp considering it's not anamorphic 16 x 9 enhanced. There are some specs of dirt here and there, but they never interfere with the beautiful film. The mono sound is adequate. English subtitles complete the picture. 



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