Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Japanese Cinema Wednesdays: Sanshiro Sugata (Kurosawa, 1943)

Even at the peak of his career, there's always something disjunctive about Kurosawa's films- the wipes, the willfully eccentric angles- and in his first film, a piecemel lesson in responsibility in the form of a judo student's development, the director's storytelling eccentricities are handled with neither the assurance nor the moral seriousness that he would later develop. It comes off a little sloppy, but likeably so (Johnnie To's homage feels, for once, about right). It's a vervy little cinematic spaghetti test; Kurosawa seems to be auditioning camera movements and framings for future use. Most notable: a climactic showdown on a deserted mountainside plain, wind whipping through the flossy glass. It works so well, Masaki Kobayashi would borrow it for both of his socially conscious samurai movies.

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