Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sanshiro Sugata

Sanshiro Sugata was the Indy Film Buffs Movie of the Month @ Gary's on Sunday. This was Akira Kurosawa's directorial debut. This was also pre-Tishiro Mifune - Susumu Fajita was the star. The movie starts out with several jujitsu fighters deciding to prank Sensei Yano, the new Shudokan Judo trainer as he makes his way to the Kodokan school in Yokohama. Of course Yano ends up tossing each of them into the adjoining canal...except for Sanshiro - he decides to carry Yano all the way to the school in the now abandoned rickshaw. Sanshiro ceremoniously leaves his pair of geta (wooden Japanese sandals) on the road. We see the first of many trade marks of Akira films. We are privy to following what happens to the pair of geta as time passes. They end up in a creek and we see them float and bob, as each one goes its separate way. Lovely... Lower levels of Sumo wrestlers wear a version of geta and are eager to get out of them as the clanky sound they make belays the wearers status. I wonder if that was true for these fighters? Made me also think of the Peter Sellers character in The Party who looses a shoe when he first arrives at the house.

Catching the atention of the Ryoi Shinto School, Higaki, the well dressed jujitsu master, who's shoulder tapping umbrella handle enters the scene first, wants to fight Sanshiro - to the death. Sanshiro kind of reminded me of being a gunslinger in the wild west - everyone wants to try to out shoot you. Higaki was clearly the best dressed/best groomed fellow in sight. I liked the scene where he's impeccably dressed as an English gentleman, lounging on the floor, head propped on what appears to be a head rest to protect his hair (takamakura), smoking, while he talks to Sayo, Hansuke's daughter. He wasn't the only guy to wear English clothes, but he was the only one to cut quite the dandy figure. Higaki finally gets to fight Sanshiro to the death in a midnight fight on a grassy, wind swept field.

I felt like Susumu's Sanshiro character worked in the beginning; he seemed quite naive and young, but wasn't really able to carry the role after becoming a Judo master.

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