YOJIMBO – A Combination of Craft

William Benker

Yojimbo – 1961 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

It’s common Kurosawa knowledge that Japan’s greatest director was a huge fan of American westerns.  The wandering warrior often casually walks into a village at war.  What Kurosawa delivers in Yojimbo is a western all its own.  Complete with stand offs, hostages and a local brewery, the film encompasses a variety of talents at work.  Along with the usual duo of Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, Yojimbo exemplifies the valiant efforts that go on behind scenes, raising the film above most western/gangster stories to an experience so entertaining, it illustrates the significance it plays in later American cinema.

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CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON

By Jared M. Gordon

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – 2000 – dir. Ang Lee

“When in comes to the affairs of the heart, even the greatest warriors can be consummate idiots.”

Ang Lee’s homage to Du Lu Wang’s kung-fu novel, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, I must confess, did not make an instant impression upon me the first time that I saw it.  The film soars with Lee’s breathtaking direction and cinematography by Academy award-winner Peter Pau, but I found the story meandering and simple.

Of course, I missed the point, discovered only after a re-watch.  The story is indeed simple.  It is the characters who are complex.  This is an ironic movie about opposites: finding through loss.  Gaining through sacrifice.  Joy through despair.  Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a simple story about masculinity, femininity, and life.
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DR. ZHIVAGO

By Peggy Nelson

Dr. Zhivago – 1965 – dir. David Lean

There are many characters in David Lean’s Dr. Zhivago (1965), the sprawling, epic portrayal of people caught up in the Russian Revolution, the least of which is, surprisingly, Dr. Zhivago himself.   In addition to Zhivago, Lara, Komorovsky, Pasha, and a host of others, there is the land, the weather, the first World War, the mountains, the interminable train ride, the tide of political events, the Five-Year Plans, even the giant posters of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, all playing their parts and threatening to upstage the action.  Beside all these a small story about love and betrayal should pale; as Strelnikov claims in the film, “the personal life is dead in Russia.”  But it is Lean’s achievement that it is not: it more than holds its own, and forms the core around which the rest crash and swirl.
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LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

By Peggy Nelson

Lawrence of Arabia – 1962 – dir. David Lean

Size DOES matter.

Some films need to be seen on the big screen.  I first saw Lawrence of Arabia (dir. by David Lean, 1962) on one of the biggest, the UC Theatre in Berkeley, California.  A giant screen is not only the appropriate frame for the stunning cinematography in this film, it is the only canvas large enough for its title subject.  T. E. Lawrence was one of those rare people whose life comprised a perfect storm of circumstance and talent, creating a man worthy of a 70mm, almost 4-hour film; a figure truly larger than life.

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