#108: Yojimbo (1961)

When and how did I watch this?

August 26th and 27th, 2016, on Hulu Plus.

Had I seen this film already?

Nope. Well, yes.  I’ll explain below.

What did I know about the movie before watching it?

Nothing, and everything.

What do I know about it now?

About 20 minutes into Yojimbo, my wife and I realized there was something strikingly familiar about the film. The rugged setting, the rival gangs in the same town, and the smug protagonist getting his nose into everyone’s business all felt like things we’d seen before.  It wasn’t too much longer when we began speculating this movie followed the same plot as A Fistful of Dollarsbut this one predated it.  Upon review afterward, we discovered it was redone without permission, resulting in a small lawsuit.  Fortunately, this version is higher on the list, and for good reason: Yojimbo as the character is even more bombastic than the Eastwood version, making for several hilarious scenes. Kurosawa effectively contrasts Yojimbo’s wile with the dopey gang members, making him seem immortal until they finally get their hands on him. One omission is the role of the deceptive women, a common theme in Kurosawa productions and a plot element that Fistful dismisses likely due to political correctness.  The cinematography is awesome, of course — windy long shots, unique layering and blocking, and well-choreographed action shots.  This one is a feast.

What are some themes in the film?

Pride, social class, economics, betrayal, family, bravery

Did this affect me personally?

Yes.  There’s a fun scene when the gangs gather to “charge” at each other, both sides feigning an attack, but nothing actually becoming of it. Hilarious.

Why is this ranked #108?

It’s better than Fistful and it’s Kurosawa.

Did my wife watch/like it?

She loved this one. Props to her for picking up on the similarities.  It might have taken the whole film for me to realize it.

Would I watch it again?

Yes.  This one’s a lot of fun, and it’s full of swordplay.

Would I recommend it to a friend?

It’s recommended to pick up every Kurosawa film, really.

Does it deserve to be on this list as one of the greatest films of all time?

Oh yes.  I feel like fans of the spaghetti western version probably don’t know about this one. They’re missing out.  Yojimbo is truly original and certainly great.

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