This Thursday, the Library of Congress provides an opportunity to see a film by one of cinema’s masters, the legendary Akira Kurosawa, on glorious 35mm film. 1962’s Sanjuro is a deeper cut in the Kurosawa catalog; a sequel to the previous years’ acclaimed, beloved, and oft-imitated Yojimbo, in which Toshiro Mifune reprises his role as a wandering swordsman, in the 11th of his sixteen collaborations with the director.
Mifune is always a fascinating onscreen presence, and his role here is more boisterous and broad than in Yojimbo; the film is a near-comedy of class and manners, closer in tone to Kurosawa’s sly and cynical freewheeling films like the Hidden Fortress than his more austere pictures. He swaggers, cackles, and roars his way through an otherwise restrained cast (including other Toho regulars like Takashi Shimura), as a disgraced, drunken samurai called upon to save a small village from corruption. While Mifune provides the majority of the films highlights, other moments — such as a shocking geyser of blood, or a single cherry blossom falling into a running stream — showcase the precision and technical innovations of the increasingly meticulous director.
Sanjuro screens at 7:30pm at the Packard Theater in Culpeper. Admission is free; more information is available at the LOC’s website.