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YOJIMBO

Japan, 1961 (MIFF 1963)

Director: Akira Kurosawa

In the middle of the 19th century, at Namome, on a highway north of Edo, crime is rife. Sanjuro, a wandering Samurai, arrives to find the village decimated by some long lasting feud. Hansuke, a petty police official, offers to introduce him to one of the local bosses as a bodyguard.

The village is split into two rival gangs. Seibei is the leader of one but he has been double-crossed by Ushitora, his chief henchman. Solicited by both factions, Sanjuro concludes that it is not worthwhile to join either parly and finds himself a peacemaker, trying to keep one side from dominating the other. Gradually his wits and sword restore peace to the village - anyway, to those that are left - and he stalks away.

Kurosawa tells this tale with a real sense of the macabre. Stylistically it is his most commanding film for throughout, the style dominates the content. People move with great dramatic flourishes, the music acting as a counterpoint to the emotions. The ferocious battles are presented with all the director's old cunning and virtuosity.

Mifune is titanic in the part. Alternating between sullen silences and swift violent outbursts his performance gives the film an extraordinary tension. Award: Best Actor, Venice Festival.

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