“Yojimbo” can stylistically be considered as a “study” for his “Sanjuro” made a year after “Yojimbo” (with the same main character played by a unique actor in the history of cinema Toshiro Mifune). But thematically it is quite an independent film that concentrates on the specificity of economically determined fight between rivaling groups of entrepreneurs with taste for semi-legal or just outright illegal strategies of self-enrichment (the types we are today in the 21st century know only too well). Kurosawa uses a tiny provincial city in Japan of 19th century as a setting for metaphorizing up-to-date behavior of international cast of predatory money-makers.

Like we today (after invented wars and financial collapses) Kurosawa in “Yojimbo” thinks what to do in a situation when pathological greed of the financial decision-makers endangers the life of human populations. Again, as we are today, Kurosawa was disappointed with the traditional idea of “revolutionary transformation” of a corrupt society – the experience of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe is enough to discourage us from this path. Instead, Kurosawa offers in his two films a vagabond samurai Sanjuro as, in essence, a role model for our hope. Instead of “revolution” as a strategy for social-psychological transformation of life Kurosawa offers “non-participation” in multi-corrupted system of living, when the hero is morally pure enough to punish sins of both sides.

Sanjuro is an outsider by moral reasons. This status (under-status) “of not belonging” to either of competing economic groups colors his personality as a moral alternative to those who while being horrified by the cruelty of the system are doomed to participate in its everyday rituals because they share many of its conventions, prejudices and vices. The intensity of “Yojimbo’s” critical energies joins the elaborateness of its analysis of today’s formal democracy’s vices and obsessions hidden under the beautiful make-up of its proudly humane ideological pronouncements.

“Yojimbo” isa rare example of a “not-violent film with a lot of violence”. It is impressively differs from Hollywood’s representation of violence. Like in “Yojimbo” and in Hollywood and Hollywood-imitation movies the violence can be created on both sides – positive and negative, but in Kurosawa’s film the positive hero is completely human – with humility and modesty and without charisma and shining bravado, while in purely commercial films a “good guy” is enveloped in mythological toga of super-hero. The negative characters in “Yojimbo” is also without fairy-tale aura and extremely realistic and “modern”, while in pop-movies they are shaped to be hated by viewers to the degree of providing audience the catharsis of murderous pleasure connected with identification with villains’ murder by a tremendously good guy. When Kurosawa shows justified violence he never glamorizes it, but where violence is not justified it is shown rather not as violence per se but as greedy and calculative emotion of those who use violence just to achieve their goal of grabbing more power, money and admiration. In this sense, Kurosawa’s film is a research into the nature of inter-human violence.

Watch Akira Kurosawa – Yojimbo in Entertainment | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

This shot can be taken as an introduction to the film – to the reality of 21st century wars (human arm as a pork-shoulder).

Sanjuro’s identity is always self-effacing – for him self-pride through names and titles doesn’t exist

Competing powerful/wealthy/greedy men are always behind economic-political national and international conflicts in the modern world. Armies follow politicians, politicians – the wealthy/greedy. For this reason Sanjuro Kawabatake ‘s position is to let the strong people to act out their mutual hate for one another – let them wipe each other out and leave the world alone in peace. To achieve it he indirectly recommends the viewers not to allow ourselves to be tempted to become servants of the political and financial elite – slaves for the sake of self-enriching/self-promoting. The composition of this shot suggests that the task of any intelligent person is not to become an employee of the power/wealth and always be neutral to their plebeian fight of greeds (which will crash everything on their path).

Sanjuro is ready to fight against both competing sides even with a casual weapon.

The local policeman is appealing to Sanjuro (as soon as he walked into the city) not to lose the opportunity to “make extra cash” on hate between rivaling sides and later to pay him a little for a good idea.

Misery of the policeman, who is ready to serve whoever has a chance to enrich himself (here as a bodyguard), is comically emphasized in this shot.

Sanjuro is trapped because of his “irrational” compassion towards “good people” (who are prone to underestimate the omnipresence of “evil”).

Unosuke’s superior technology of warfare is neutralized

Sanjuro is liberating the town from rivaling businessmen and their “private militaries”.

Posted on 8 Aug 2011 –   Akira Kurosawa’s “Yojimbo” (1961) – Spiritual Maverick In Between Rivaling Powers  by Acting-Out Politics