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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SEVEN SAMURAI: The Discipline of Conflict

By William Benker

Seven Samurai – 1954 – dir. Akira Kurosawa

The philosophical insight Akira Kurosawa unleashes in his epic Seven Samurai stands above most war films ever produced.  Though the portrayal of war is common among films, the true essence of conflict itself is often times overlooked.  The manner and tempo with which Kurosawa delivers his epic is where the message emerges.  With a steady pace and extensive view into every facet of struggle, the director breaches the threshold of cinematic philosophy into a new realm of artistic meaning.  In 16th century Japan, the framework of conflict is embodied within seven selfless warriors who use all of their abilities to defeat a clan of bandits.  Kurosawa’s stark vision of life itself is extrapolated in the picture.  Constantly put into question by smaller battles along the way, the director paints a decadent landscape of morality, giving audiences the very essence of cinema and story in its most ancient form.  Seven Samurai is a perfect step-by-step guide into the very heart of conflict.

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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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