The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
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All Critics (3)
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Vigorously told, excellent drama about the martial arts.
A simple story, but an intricately crafted movie.
A conventional film.
thank the criterion collection for putting together a coherent translation of this film. such a great precedent for other fight films to come. this film hits an emotional chord too many other martial arts films fail to hit, and the sequences only improve as they go on. the climax is fantastic, and the heart behind sugata's struggle reveals a depth to the plot seldom seen in this genre. a wonderful film.
"Sanshiro Sugata" is the first film from the legendary Akira Kurosawa who went on to make some of the finest films the world has ever witnessed. While this is not one of the top-tier Kurosawa films, it is saying something when a Director's lower films are better than a majority of other films out. The story is simple, a man who pursues a path in Judo grows as a person while doing so and also discovers humanity as well. The film portrays Sugata's progression as a martial artist as well as a man and finds purpose in doing so. The film while simple is still filled with great fight sequences, occasional comedy and some striking cinematography and shows the beginnings of the legendary Kurosawa and foreshadows what he would go on to achieve.
In "Sanshiro Sugata," a group of jujitsu instructors get together to teach Yano(Denjiro Okochi) a lesson for having the gall to open a judo school of his own. Things do not go as planned as he takes on all comers with his back to a canal while hardly breaking a sweat. But it is not so easy with Sanshiro Sugata(Susumu Fujita), his star pupil, who keeps getting into fights outside of school. As Yano condemns him for his lack of humanity and contemplates kicking him out, Sanshiro dives into a pond in a fit of pique.
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.
Sugata Sanshiro is the story of a man who, through lessons taught to him by a wise martial arts master, learns important lessons in life. I found this film something of an oddity where it comes to Kurosawa; it was his first film, and I couldn't help but think he had limited creative control over the project. The characters are not particularly well fleshed out, Chee's miraculous catharsis from rabble rousing brawler to enlightened martial artist meant little as you never really got to know him in the first place. His later relationships are cursory at best, only the warmth and mutual respect between he and defeated opponent Takashi Shimura really held any resonance. The villain of the piece is also virtually a cartoon character (Dick Dastardly to be precise!) who may as well have twirled his moustache and gone "Muah-hah-hah-haaaaah!!" every time he appeared, and it all ends very abruptly. The visuals however are pure Kurosawa with some beautifully framed shots of great locations and lovely costumes. The fight scenes are also very well done, preferring to stick to a very realist approach rather than the usual over the top chop socky action of the like of Jackie Chan plus the tournament based format is hugely influential, the obvious starting point for everything from The Karate Kid to Fearless. Hardly the best example of his work, but worth it for the visuals alone.
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