Day 194: Ikiru 1952 + Yojimbo 1961 + Sanjuro 1962

Ikiru 1952

I tried putting on Seven Samurai – I was going to watch all 204 minutes – the Criterion Collection DVD, but I couldn’t get English subtitles. I really wanted to see Seven Samurai (1954) before seeing tomorrow’s double-feature picture show of Yojimbo (1961) and Sanjuro (1962). I changed plans midstream and put Ikiru (1952) on instead.

Yojimbo 1961

My friend James was meant to be here at 3. 30pm for our double-header of the two really famous Toshiro Mifune samurai films from the early sixties. I’ve blacked out the cinema by covering the windows with heavy curtains and black sheets taped to the wall, hanging down. I hope he turns up. I’ll go ahead anyway. Tried calling but no answer. I’ll give him another hour before I just start.

Yojimbo 1961 + Sanjuro 1962

James reminded me that somewhere between thirty-two and thirty-six years ago he showed me one his favourite films, Yojimbo, and that I didn’t like it. I told him that maybe I’d grown up a bit since then.

Certainly, with some Mizoguchi and Ozu in my mind-space in the last ten days or so, I’m much better placed to appreciate Japanese filmmaking now than ever before.

And, oh!. What a joy Both of them were terrific.

Yojimbo, in particular. What a masterpiece of filmmaking. I don’t recall it being on the best films’ list, but Kurosawa was a master craftsman, normally represented by Seven Samurai (1954), Rashomon (1950) and Ikiru (1952).

This film was funny, smart, brilliantly photographed and engaged me from the first frame to the last. And, oh, what a music score: completely crazy and yet inspired.

Then, after dinner, Sanjuro (1962), was equally mesmerizing.

When Sergio Leone remade Yojimbo (as A Fistful of Dollars [1964]), I wonder if he told Morricone that he loved Sato’s off-the-wall score and to take a similarly bold, original approach. How else can it be explained that a remake would also have such a distinctive, unique score. At least in my memory, Morricone’s sound was unique.

It is now almost 1am and I’m going to make it three in a row and watch The Hidden Fortress (1958), as well – a film I’ve never heard of. Lane Cove library had it in their excellent collection of World Movies. Mind you, I had to pay a fine of $24 in late-fees on DVDs to get my card working again. But it enabled me to borrow Ikiru, Rashomon and The Hidden Fortress. Sanjuro and Yojimbo, I borrowed from James. Seven Samurai I had myself but the subtitles didn’t work.

Then at 10. 30am – I should get 4 hours sleep – we’re heading for Canberra for a long weekend to celebrate my mother-in-law’s 70th birthday.

Ssshh. It’s a secret.