Week 5 Blog Assignment

What stood out to me the most when watching these two films was the similarities between them. Both films had similar plots and certain settings of the film were very similar, especially the town and buildings. One aspect of both films was that the set was always very well lit. Even when it was night or in a dark room, you could clearly see the characters faces when there was a close-up shot. This lighting helps to accentuate the emotions and expressions of all the characters in the film.

Another aspect of the both films that stood out to me was the wind. Both films had wind, although in Yojimbo, the wind seemed to be a bit stronger. This adds to the suspense and drama in the scene, as the wind was blowing the hardest when a fight was about to occur. The wind also makes the fighter’s movements seem quicker and heightens the tension of the moment. Long shots were used many times to show the fight scenes between the characters and highlight the background of the scene.

All of the characters in the films wore very similar costumes. In Yojimbo, both the men and women wore kimonos and had their hair pulled into a tight bun. In A Fistful of Dollars, all the men wore the standard western “cowboy” attire. Dark collared button down shirts, boots, and hats.

One thing that I was wondering after I watched these two films was whether the Japanese films influenced the Western films, or vice versa. It was interesting to see the similarities between the two, especially in the storyline. For example, in a Fistful of Dollars, Clint Eastwood’s character mysteriously shows up in the town, like Sanjuro did. Also, Sanjuro helps a man and his family escape the town and the same scenario occured in A Fistful of Dollars.

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8 thoughts on “Week 5 Blog Assignment

  1. It is interesting to me that you say the setting of both movies is similar. I agree with this because both movies take place in a sort of secluded town. This is strange to me though because the culture of each movie is so different and culture is usually associated with location. This could support your idea that Japanese and Western movies could have been based off of each other. I also found it interesting that you pointed out how the wind plays a role in each movie. I had not thought about this until you said that, but you are absolutely right. The wind was used to create suspense, which occurred quite often in both films. How crazy is it that if someone asked what a Japanese movie and a Western movie have in common, all they would need to do is compare A Fistful of Dollars and Yojimbo!

  2. I would go so far as to say that they aren’t similar, so much as actually the same movie. Almost shot for shot. Except for maybe one scene.

    But you’re onto something with the costuming idea. In Yojimbo, the denizens of the town all had a hairstyle that predominantly featured their forheads, and for the most part, wore striped kimonos. The protagonist did not, which I suppose served to visually remind us that he is a stranger to the area, outside of their dress and customs. Same with A Fistful Of Dollars, though less pronounced, Clint Eastwood wore a poncho, whereas, to what I can recall, no one else did.

    I can help you out, with your question of which came first, Yojimbo or the Spaghetti Western. Yojimbo actually predates the golden age of Westerns, being filmed in 1961, and directly inspired Sergio Leone to direct A Fistful Of Dollars in 1964, and continue with his particular brand of Western. Akira Kurasawa and his films were the influence on Westerns, not vice versa, surprisingly.

  3. It is insane how these two films line up so closely. Both films certainly appear very well lit, which led me to believe that they both used artificial lighting. Even when it was nighttime we were able to see the characters faces, along with their expressions. It definitely aided the viewer due to the highlighting of the makeup, which put emphasis on the characters expressions and emotions. Wind did have a key role in both films. I also found the wind in Yojimbo to be more prominent. Although, that could be solely because we watched that film in it’s entirety. I had not really thought about the purpose of the wind, but I would have to agree that it made fights more intense. Believe it or not, I was wondering the same thing regarding which genre of films came first. I was curious as to which one really inspired the other because after watching Yojimbo I was sure that it was inspired by Western films. However, after viewing a Fistful of Dollars, it is entirely possible for Western films to be Japanese inspired.

  4. What you pointed out about the influence and emphasis on wind in both films is very interesting and something that I didn’t put much consideration into. However, I completely agree because there were multiple instances in both films where there huge gusts of wind picking up dust and making it very apparent how severe the weather was. Also, there were scenes in both films where people were emerging from the dust cloud, which creates a very interesting and somewhat mysterious feeling because it appears as if they’re just coming out of the depths or something. I also was wondering about the influence on one movie from the other. Although the sort of Western motif and town has been around longer than just from A Fistful of Dollars, the two movies did have striking similarities. After our class discussion about the influence, I was under the impression that the director of Yojimbo was heavily influenced and in a way mimicking the Western film style.

  5. Nature was used very well in both films. Props, lighting, and the setting were done so purposefully which imbedded meaning into them. Like you said, the wind was blowing and the tumbleweed gave the actors a feeling of heightened intensity when there is fighting. In Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars, there was a lot of use of props that held meaning. The pistol in Yojimbo was the power, and so was the rifle in A Fistful of Dollars. They both served to mean that no matter how great the instrument, the hero can triumph against it. There was also the lock that served as a beacon of hope to the Samurai when he was able to find a way to escape capture. This lock connects to the barrel, which Clint Eastwood used to escape capture also. The two movies are so similar in the use of props and nature that it is hard to believe that one was made in Japan and the other in the West.

  6. On the topic of the wind, nature itself was definitely a large aspect of both movies, but maybe more so in Yojimbo. While you stated that wind was used in the fight scenes to accentuate movement, it was also used to introduce us to characters, as the saying goes “look who the wind blew in.” The man with the pistol was introduced on a windy day. Also, rain definitely added to the plot. The rain forced the entire town into submission, leading to quiet conversations as opposed to physical confrontations. The rain created a feeling of isolation.

  7. I agree with bapopovic in that the films “aren’t similar, so much as actually the same movie.” They seemed identical to me—illegally so. If two books are as similar as these two movies are, there are serious plagiarism lawsuits filed against the later author. I think to say that one film “influenced” another is to completely understate the obvious plagiarism going on. I did some digging into this because I thought it was interesting, and it turns out that Yojimbo is not an original piece of work—it is “influenced” heavily by Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest and The Glass Key (go figure!).

    Another thing to point out that goes along with the use of wind is the use of fog/smoke. This was used a lot in Yojimbo to section areas off—to have clear dividing lines—and to set the mood during standoffs and fight scenes. In A Fist Full of Dollars it was used to extend the set farther than actually was (to give the illusion of greater depth), to represent the fire that Clint Eastwood sets, and to set the mood during standoffs.

  8. I can agree with you on the lighting in both films, the use of low key lighting and highly saturated light plays up shadows very well and portrays emotion on a sphere that is different from just acting. One particular scene that I liked the most was in Yojimbo by Akira Kurosama was when Sanjuro was captured and thrown into a room, all bloodied, beat up and nearly dead. At that moment in the film I absolutely loved the lighting as he sees the coffin/box, the light shining off of the open lock symbolized hope; it made me feel secure that Sanjuro would be able to escape the somewhat deadly situation he is in and that not only reflected on the lock but also on his face due to the beautiful lighting. Sanjuro’s face was half lit and half dark it showed me that there will still be trial and tribulations/ obstacles to overcome in a town where he isn’t welcomed.

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