Yojimbo and Sanjuro (Tsubaki Sanjûrô)
In Wheeler Auditorium
Sanjuro tosses a stick into the air. When it falls to earth, he follows the direction in which it points and walks into an extraordinary adventure. A small town is divided into opposing factions which are at war; the townspeople either join sides or cower in fear. But Sanjuro, a masterless samurai played by Toshiro Mifune in his best-known role, decides to get rid of both sides and make a little money in the bargain. He hires himself first to one group and then the other as a yojimbo (bodyguard), encouraging them to kill each other off and helping out a bit himself. In the end, only Sanjuro and the people who did not choose sides are alive.
If this were all there were to Yojimbo, Kurosawa would have succeeded in making a highly entertaining film. It has been a great popular success throughout the world, and in this country has often been described as a “Japanese Western.” But there is something more to Yojimbo; there is a resonance that a mere sword film could not possess. The comedy is brilliantly conceived. The characters, even the most grotesque and two-dimensional, are carefully drawn. The photography and editing are superb. But the most important element of the film is the convincing realism that Kurosawa has created. Everything has an authentic look to it and so the extravagances of the comedy are solidly rooted.