Week 5 Blog Assignment

Yojimbo is an interesting combination of an American story with a Japanese setting.

The setting is restricted to the town once Sanjuro ends up there by chance. Most of the film takes place during the day, except for one scenario in the middle that takes place at night. This scene at night can be categorized with other occurrences in which the setting is very much aware of times of turmoil. It is windy during many of the battle scenes, and this can lead to the inference that the setting is as much of a character as any of the people in the film, maybe even more so, given that many of the supporting characters and their fates are largely inconsequential (especially when compared to the bigger figure that Sanjuro represents).

Most of the movie is brightly lit. In fact, even during a scene that takes place at 2:00 a.m., everything still seems pretty well-lit, and the time difference between this and other scenes of the movie may not even have been noticed if not explicitly mentioned.

As for framing and staging, Kurosawa greatly utilizes the close-up. Toshiro Mifune’s acting performance is very subtle and displays feeling through actions more than words. For the character of Sanjuro, the close-up works very well to display his emotions, for he is not a very wordy man. The film is also filled with many moving-camera shots, and this clearly distinguished the movie from the older films that we have watched this semester. One particular shot that I found interesting was when the innkeeper was hanging on a rope, and Sanjuro finds him. The camera pans upwards to make us aware that the innkeeper is indeed the one hanging from the rope, and then the camera moves to the left to follow the gang members and to show that they are alarmed (with the innkeeper at the right of the shot), and then the camera moves right again to show Sanjuro, there to save the man, with the innkeeper at the left of the shot. All the while we can see the innkeeper’s alarmed expression. This staging and camera movement adds suspense and shifts attention from character to character, and this moving-camera style can definitely be seen in movies that are influenced by those of Kurosawa, especially anything made by Tarantino, as others have mentioned.

Finally, the battles in the film, although fought by Japanese swordsmen, are staged and played out like Western standoffs. One group stands on one side, the other group on the other, and they engage in a tense stare-down before making the first move. One can definitely see the influence this film has had on later cinema.


One thought on “Week 5 Blog Assignment

  1. I believe in the case of these films, the setting truly did not matter, merely the circumstances. It didn’t matter if it was Feudal Japan or the Midwest, the characters and circumstances they were placed in was essentially the same and resulted in almost 2 parallels of the same actions taken place in either film.

    The brightly lit scenes, or the low key lighting, really emphasized the shadows and placed a mood of tension and suspense into scenes by simple lighting. These films truly showed the importance and the effects of lighting on scenes.

    The camerawork and cinematography was astounding in how the angles also created and heightened sense of fear, suspense, and tension. The seen with the innkeeper hanging was almost scary in the camera angling.

    It’s clear on the western influence, from the gritty feel, character archetypes, the wind and dust(akin to a tumbleweed to me), and the intense standoffs between foes.

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