Sugata Sanshiro (Judo Saga) (Judo Story) Reviews
of the criticism and opposing styles of fighting loyalty and live or die dedication to a style of system that is so strict in an actual fight its movements are rendered useless.
Black and white Japaneses film from highly respected director Akira Kurosawa who has inspired, George Lucas's Star Wars series and films by Steven Spielberg and Ford Coppola. Sanshiro Sugata is the first installment in The Judo Saga; this film centers around a young man traveling to a small town to learn Jujitsu but soon finds a new style that, in the film is more superior. He soon learns the style but has not conquered the mental state of mind. During the film while having a test of deadly dedication to his new style of fighting he confines himself in a muddy swamp were he get his first enlightenment by a beautiful flower growing near by him, teaching the beauty of life itself and that to push himself to death because he cant conquer Judo spirituality is not the answer, he has more trials for his art with love and at last the final battle; will he have what it takes to become the best? Still enjoyable considering it is a partially losted film and was made quite a long time ago any new fans to Kurosawa's film need to watch his first film, with noticeable limits on his production but his filmmaker talent fights through with ease, a good-old-classic.
Based on a best-selling novel, Sugata Sanshiro established the reputation of Kurosawa, and made him a prominent figure in the filmmaking business. Though it's far from being a genuine masterpiece, the film still shows the director's steady hand and is the admirable proof of his awe-inspiring versatility.
To become the master of martial arts is an uneasy task, and Sanshiro learns the lesson in the first minutes of the picture. Trying to join a clan of Jujitsu fanatics, he quickly realizes that they're just a bunch of up to no good coxcombs. Seeing how easily Yano (Denjir├┤ ├"k├┤chi), the originator and master of Judo, defeated the group, Sanshiro decides to become his student. To become a proficient Judo technician the young, strong-willed, yet somehow reckless Sugata must overcome many of his weaknesses and find out the meaning of a warrior's way, thus learning the true meaning of life. The student, struggling to accustom himself to the situation, is constantly tested by his master, in many more or less laborious ways. And when the time comes, Sanshiro is finally able to take part in tournaments, in order to prove his indisputable technique and unrestrained power. On his way Sanshiro meets a mysterious, elegant, devilish man by the name of Hagaki (Ry├╗nosuke Tsukigata), who's like a shadow that's been following Sugata everywhere that he goes. Ironically so, the man - with his familiar look and specifically evil attitude - comes as a typical dark character, taken straight out of a superhero movie. In the film's most climatic and disquieting sequence, the two rivals participate in a duel that will determine who's the strongest living martial artist.
For all the lovers of Japanese culture, and for all the adepts of Asian martial arts, Sugata Sanshiro will definitely be a worthy film experience. For the rest it might be an insightful, valuable, and well-crafted period drama that's not only full of perfectly choreographed action scenes, but also full of humane qualities that prove to have an authentic meaning even in the modern times.
The original cut was destroyed due the Japanese wartime entertainment policies. The copy that remains is 17 minutes short from the original and as such one is left to wonder what was cut by the censors.
(1943) Sugata Sanshiro
(In Japanese with English subtitles)
It's common knowledge that director Akira Kurosawa generally makes films that'd be extremely popular, if they were 'remade' by other directors such as Sergio Leone's "A Fistful of Dollars" from "Yojimbo", George Lucas's "Star Wars" from "The Hidden Fortress" and Preston Sturges of "The Magnificent Seven" from "Seven Samurai". These films and more can always be enjoyed more-so overseas and perhaps make more money than the original ones Kurosawa made within his own region of Japan or anywhere else for that matter! And upon watching this film 20 minutes in for the first time, I barely couldn't keep my eyes open and as the movie progressed, I suddenly realized why that is! By first looking at the story and then the year this film was made which was in 1943 made me wonder whether or not this was even the "first" conventional chop socky movie ever made since the storyline delves into 'very' familiar territory, about man entering a village for the intentions of becoming a high ranking martial artist until a judo instructor takes him under his wing, proving that his judo was the more superior martial art than other dojo's teaching Jiu- Jitsu- the Japanese Jiu Jitsu which involves grabbing or grappling and not the Bruce Lee kind which involves alot of kicking and punching! And if you've seen alot of so-called chop- socky movies as much as I have such as "The Chinese Connection", "The Fearless Hyena", "Drunken Master" or the "Master Killer" then you'll know that their is somewhat a pattern and this film called "Sugata Sanshiro" made in 1943 may have started it, also included as well are the wind scenes blowing on the background upon the final fight which Kurosawa reused again on "Yojimbo" mimiced again on other martial art films that came out after this one either by Chinese films or anywhere else!
Also notable about this film if "ones" seen enough Kurosawa oldies are the familiarity of the characters he resuses from other films such as the the old guy starting the samurai group to defend against the bandits in "Seven Samurai", he plays one of the stars Jiu Jitsu's main opponents!
The only thing that is preventing this film from receiving a perfect rating is that the martial arts isn't all that great considering that the time it was made of course, making much of that fighting kind of tame by today's standards, considering what people can get as of right now, but Kurosawa's artistic merit is still there, as well as the atmosphere which is still quite effective because it builds great tension!
3.5 out of 4 stars
With his first film "Sanshiro Sugata," writer-director Akira Kurosawa already shows a great deal of promise in this compelling morality tale. As he proves, it is easy for somebody to be strong like Sanshiro but that does not mean he will make a great athlete.(Plus, I remember hearing somewhere that judo turns the opponent's strength back against himself.) That's not all as he also has to learn how to be humble and respect others. And I suppose it is also a mark of the times that the one seedy character is also the only one wearing western clothing.
Sanshiro Sugata (subtitled Judo Saga) tells the story of a young man who seeks to learn jujitsu, but upon seeing his prospective sensei thwarted in an attack on a rival instructor chooses to follow this man and his new art of judo. Don't expect any nefarious plots by criminal syndicates with innocent lives hanging in the balance. Sanshiro Sugata is more like an American boxing film in that it focuses mainly on the hero's personal development and his rise to become a great fighter.
And rather than the flying kicks and fists of fury that characterize modern entries in the genre, this movie uses pure judo and jujitsu, which consists of the combatants struggling shoulder to shoulder seeking to throw the other, with only the occasional block or leg-sweep. The fighting here is simple but authentic, and fairly well staged. In between the fights, we see Sanshiro train, develop a budding romance, and learn that a warrior's spirit is as important as his skill. There is of course a villain, instantly recognizable as such because of his resemblance to Snidely Whiplash, and of course they fight before it's all over.
I must confess that the villain is never given much characterization, nor is his hatred for Sanshiro explained. More interesting is Murai, an aging jujitsu master who faces Sanshiro in the annual police tournament. He is fighting for the honor of his dojo, and to make his daughter proud. Their match, pitting Murai's skill and experience against Sanshiro's strength and agility was the movie's high point for me.
The film's low budget does show at times, mainly in the set pieces and the low quality of the night shooting. More seriously, the significance of some scenes isn't clear, and others felt like they should have been developed further, such as when the daughter of a fallen rival seeks vengeance on the hero. However, this may be due to the fact that wartime authorities cut a great deal of footage, most of which was never recovered.
Sanshiro Sugata is a long way from the kind of movies Kurosawa would be making just a few short years later, but it's not bad for a debut film, and there are signs of the greatness he would later achieve.