Yojimbo ★★★★


My all-time top 20 is gonna look radically different by the time I finish this second tour of the canon. (Previous casualties include All About Eve, Citizen Kane, and The Conversation. All of which I still love, just not as dearly as I once did.) No major complaints to register—it just didn't blow me away this time, perhaps because I'm less and less interested in supermen of any stripe as I get older. Even when he gets beaten to a pulp late in the going (offscreen, notably), Mifune remains the ultimate badass; he's enormous fun to watch, especially with Kurosawa's camera matching his restless stride (fascinating to see what we now think of as the Dardennes' signature follow-shot employed to such dramatically different effect), but seems fundamentally unchanged as the movie ends—just a janitor who used a sword (and his wits) instead of a mop. If we're meant to see him develop a conscience over the course of the movie, by virtue of his efforts to save the abducted woman and her family, it doesn't really register. He's the Man With No Name And No Inner Life, leaving the movie to get by entirely on plot and spectacle—both of which peak early, with that stunning shot of Mifune in the tower watching the rival gangs slowly approach each other from frame left and frame right, their quivering swords preceding them. I also realized this time how much Masaru Sato's brassy, propulsive score drives the action, in much the same way that Morricone's whistling and chanting defines Fistful of Dollars. (I still prefer Yojimbo, for the record, though I now prefer For a Few Dollars More to both.) High and Low, which I once thought ludicrously overrated, now becomes my favorite Kurosawa picture; check back in another 20 years, when Ikiru will likely become champ.