Week 5 blog post

The mise-en-scène of both Yojimbo and A Fist Full of Dollars was quite elaborate. Although both films differ in one being colored and the other one not, the costumes and set designs lay out the tone of both films while props and character makeup, fine tune how the film is presented.

Although I wasn’t fond of Yojimbo, this was my first Japanese film experience so maybe I’m not use to how plots and stories are played out in this culture? However, some of the dominant factors illustrated in this movie are the various set designs. Because the movie is in black and white, emphasis of how the rundown town is presented to the audience is needed. This is done through long shots of the towns main road with stronger-than-normal winds that lift up the dust and old debris on the road. This portrays the hopeless place this society lives in. Furthermore, two opposing “gangs” exist and fight for territory and supremacy. All the while, nothing can be done by the inhabitants of the town but stand and watch due to lack of power, money, and above all respect from those associate with each side.

Further visual artful ways Kurosawa use to surpass black and white and make the films detail appreciated was the use of elaborate costume designed along with make up (eye shadow, eyebrows, hair, etc). When Sanjuro is introduced to one of the gangs, one can notice all these details: tattoos, scars, and character personalities, are just some ways the audience gets a feel for the setting of the movie and the mood of the town as a whole.

On the contrary, A Fist Full of Dollars still pays the same attention to detail except here we notice how color helps the audience get in touch with the town. The faded colors of buildings and character clothes, the time of day by different shades of sunlight that cast  upon the town, and the difference between clothing material between those of wealth compared to the poor. Another technique used in this film, which is common in many old western movies (also used by Kurosawa) was close up shots of the characters faces. This builds up suspense and allows for the make up or certain attributes of each character to be emphasized.

Above all, both movies paid great attention to detail and are fun to analyzed based on the knowledge applied. But if I had to pick, I would choose A Fist Full of Dollars with Clint Eastwood along with his great flow (hair).

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3 thoughts on “Week 5 blog post

  1. I agree with your comment on the influence of color and lack thereof in these films. We so often take clues about the plot, characters and mood of the film we’re watching from the color schemes we observe. With a black and white film, lighting and contrast have to make up for this. Like you said, the makeup really helps this along, most memorably in the scene where Sanjuro has cuts and bruises all over his face. Though we can’t see the red of the blood that would normally strike an emotion in us, the dark runny substance and violent looking cuts get the point across. Lighting highlights the most gory looking parts of the “injuries” while shadowing other parts of the face, making him look gaunt and destroyed.

  2. Yojimbo was not necessarily trying to pull away from black and white. I believe they were able to embrace the lack of color by using the two colors to serve as meaning. White meaning hope, and black meaning darkness. The extremely low key film definitely brought out expressions by emphasizing the features of each person. A Fistful of Dollars seem to have less depth although there was color. The film work used less of the shots to emphasize the feeling. For example, in Yojimbo, the Samurai was crawling towards the old man’s restaurant and the scene was so long and drawn out that you felt the struggle he was going through. While in A Fistful of Dollars, there was hardly any struggle as the man escaped and readily stood after causing havoc upon the town. I definitely enjoyed Yojimbo more, although both are really amazing. It just felt to me that Yojimbo had more depth, as we all have differing opinions.

  3. I totally agree with you in that both Yojimbo and Fistful of Dollars use certain aspects of mise-en-scene to further enhance each film. As you mentioned, close up shots were widely used to emphasize certain attributes of the protagonists in both. Specifically, because Leone based most of his shots from Yojimbo in Fistful of Dollars, I noticed the similarities between a particular close up shot of Sanjuro and Joe in each of their escape scenes.

    In each shot, the audience sees the hero bloody and beaten. A powerful shot, the directors add even more depth to it by playing with light. The left sides of their faces show a considerable shadow while the right sides of their faces are brightly lit. This adds contrast and emphasis to their injuries so that the audience truly understands the struggle that the heroes are in.

    The only difference I saw between each of the shots is that Yojimbo greater emphasized the shadow to make up for its lack of color. On the other hand, Fistful of Dollars allowed the vibrant contrast of red blood on Eastwood’s face to enhance the shot instead. Thus, the key elements of lighting, make up, and shot selection in mise-en-scene allowed the directors of each movie to give many shots artistic quality and meaning.

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