Sanjuro (1962)

Sanjuro (1962), directed by Akira Kurosawa.

While their elders are away at court, nine young samurai discover a plot to take over the district. Full of naive warrior spirit, they are eager to do battle with the conspirators. Luckily, crafty, scruffy ronin Sanjuro is on hand to help and keep them out of serious trouble.

This sequel to Yojimbo (1961) is lighter in tone, more of a boy's adventure. The humor is less bitter. Sanjuro has also become more philosophical: although he can still take on a small army, he would rather avoid fighting if he can. "The best sword is kept in its sheath".

Still, we have even more fights with lightning-fast swordplay. Kurosawa was the first to use "flesh" sound effects, and we hear the moans and whimpers of the vanquished. To that point, true to the genre, it had been bloodless. In a shocking final scene, the duel results in vast blood spray, fountains of chocolate syrup foaming and pooling on the ground. It's his way of saying: this has been fun, but I'm not laughing.

For funny bits: keeping the kids from killing themselves is a full time job. We have a friendly enemy prisoner living in the closet who pops out with advice from time to time.

Criterion Blu-ray. Good image and valuable commentary track.

He says that the relation of Sanjuro to the young men is the sort of mentoring Kurosawa wanted to do for younger film directors. They weren't having it though: he was such a dominating character that they wanted to break out and do new things.

As always, Kurosawa makes action/adventure pictures where conscience and compassion are more important than adherence to a warrior code.