Action Crime Drama Thriller
A wandering samurai, Sanjuro, is drawn into local politics. The Superintendent of a clan is plotting to take over the clan by implicating the Chamberlain in corrupt activities (activities the Superintendent is actually responsible for). Part of the plan involves killing off the Chamberlain's staff and, in protecting them, Sanjuro sides with them. The supporters are massively outnumbered so it will require all of Sanjuro's cunning and swordcraft to ensure the Superintendent does not succeed in his evil plan.
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August 9, 2018 at 12:01 pm
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P/S 47 / 221
Kurosowa goes into blockbuster mode!
That must be what this film was when it came out. Yet comparisons between it
and Yojimbo (Sanjuro being the sequel) often get it a bit wrong and tend to
regard Sanjuro as better. Yes and no. It's a bit like comparing Die Hard and
Die Hard with Avengeance, the third film is bigger, funnier, faster... but
the first installment is darker and more original. Same with these two:
Kurosowa's Yojimbo is dark and has a message and some depth (more than
Sanjuro), but Sanjuro is more fun and has a faster pace. It isn't Kurosowa's
finest hour, but may be one of his best attempts at lightweight
crowd-pleasing (though still bearing lots of quality!) and much closer to
great Hollywood capers that inspired him (John Ford was his idol!). Mifune
is on top form, yet again, as the reluctant nonchalant samurai/manipulator
Sanjuro, and layers his performance with a subtly comical aspect. Probably
the best film of Kurosowa's oeuvre to watch first if you've never seen any
of his films with Mifune (it has a short running time [96min] and flows
smoothly). See what I mean? Yeah you! Well then get moving: go out there and
see what all the fuss is about!!!
Excellent - Superb - A Masterpiece
Akira Kurosawa is probably the best Director in the entire History of
film-making. He has not been that prolific given the amount of time he has
spent making films, but many of these have subsequently been remade - Seven
Samurai became the magnificent seven. Yoijimbo (the prequel to this one)
became A fistful of dollars - and more recently last man standing. The
hidden Fortress became Star Wars.
Sanjuro marked the return of Toshiro Mifune as the Sardonic Ronin from
Yet again, the photography is excellent - the period costumes and buildings
beautiful to look at even in black and white.
From one of the first scenes, in the grounds outside the Shrine, Mifune
shows a 500% improvement in the art of Kenjutso - he must have been
practicing night and day!
But it is the character of Sanjuro itself that makes the film so absorbing.
He is on the surface, a dirty, disrespectful abrasive man - but his deeds
portray him as a hero - someone who once was a shining example of a Samurai
and despite being put through the ringer still holds to a deeply rooted code
of honor. When this shows however, he is most anxious to cover it up
The film involves a power struggle within a small city in Japan between the
old faction and the new power-hungry one. It deals with false perceptions
and truth. Two of the tenets that are at the heart of Kurosawa's
This is a Gem - rent it - if you can, Buy it!
One of Kurosawa's most polished movies
Tsubaki Sanjuro is, unfortunately, not so widely seen abroad (= outside
Japan) as Yojinbo, probably because it was not copied as a western. In
Japan, however, Tsubaki Sanjuro is not less popular than Yojinbo. Not a
few Japanese actually prefer the former to the latter, and it's easy to
see why: It is stylistically more polished and smarter than Yojimbo and
Mifune is 'cooler' as well - he shows a brilliant leadership and every
Mifune fan would be really delighted to see how his young, naive
disciples run after him like chicks following the mother duck.And while Yojinbo's female main character, Orin, is an evil and crafty
woman, Lady Mutsuta in Tsubaki Sanjuro is 'irritatingly light-hearted'.
But she has a deep insight into Sanjuro's personality and understands
him far better than his male disciples. An excellent character, and, in
fact, she is the only person in Tsubaki Sanjuro AND Yojinbo to whom
Sanjuro/Mifune speaks in a polite form (in Japanese).Tsubaki Sanjuro is, so to speak, a 'concentrate' of Kurosawa's
cinematography and one sees in it every aspect of his greatness in a
very compact form. Therefore no one could remake this movie.
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The master in a lighter mode
Sanjuro is not one of Kurosawa's great films, but it shows him relaxed and
having fun, deconstructing the jidai-geki (samurai film) genre with tongue
firmly in cheek.The film lacks the meticulous visual style of Yojimbo, but it is very well
photographed, with some extremely fluid cinematography and those
effortlessly artful group compositions that only Kurosawa seems to be able
to do. The plot is a little exposition-heavy, but it's always swift-moving
and never comes close to taking itself seriously.Watching Toshiro slice apart all those enemies in the various battle scenes
with nary a bloodstain in sight, I did find myself wishing the folks at Toho
had sprung for a few squibs. But all is set right in the brilliant final
swordfight, which is worth the price of admission.