Director: Akira Kurosawa

We’re in the mid-nineteenth century, and the regime of Japan’s feudal shogunate is in terminal meltdown. Into a small provincial town strolls a scruffy, itching, down-at-heel samurai, who finds the place split between two feuding gangs. Rapidly concluding that both sides are equally loathsome, he sets out to trick them into destroying each other. Making stunning use of wide-screen images, Kurosawa’s pitch-black comedy is sheer delightomuch aided by Masaru Sato’s jaunty score, a cast of unforgettable grotesques, and a performance of sardonic relish from Toshiro Mifune as the lone swordsman. Kurosawa always loved westerns: in Yojimbo he borrows the conventions of the genre and, with great stylishness and gusto, turns them to his own ends. The compliment was returned when Sergio Leone stole the plot wholesale and turned it into the seminal spaghetti western A Fistful of Dollars, launching Clint Eastwood to stardom.
Japan, 1961. English subtitles. Black and white. Anamorphic. 110 mins.

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