Tomoyuki Tanaka

Tomoyuki Tanaka

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Sanjuro Review


Very Good
One of the biggest hits in Akira Kurosawa's film career was 1961's Yojimbo, the genre smasher with Toshiro Mifune's instantly legendary performance as Sanjuro, that shambling and bedraggled ronin who roams the countryside looking for food, shelter, and cash for anyone who will pay him to kill. So successful was Yojimbo that Kurosawa's studio prevailed upon him to rework a script he had been working on, turning it into a Mifune vehicle with Mifune reprising his role as Sanjuro. And within a few months it was written, shot, and in the theaters. The result of this rush job by Kurosawa was Sanjuro -- a quieter, gentler Yojimbo.

The tale involves nine straight-laced, by-the-book, narrow-mined, and lunkheaded young samurai, who want to barrel in and rescue the chamberlain of their clan, being held prisoner by the clan superintendent Kukui (Masao Shimizu). Meeting at a temple to discuss their plans, the samurai are interrupted by loud yawns from the back room. Emerging from his slumber is Sanjuro (Toshiro Mifune), and he greets the group scratching and yawning. Admonishing the group, he grumpily tells the innocents, "People aren't what they seem. Be careful. You'll never suspect who the worst are. Be careful." As if on cue, Kukui's army sneaks up on the temple, commanded by canny samurai mercenary Hanbei Muroto (Tetsuya Nakadei). Hiding the nine samurai in the temple floorboards, Sanjuro beats back Moroto's men and grumpily offers to help the boys: "I can't stand by and watch you blunder your way to your deaths." The rest of the film consists of Sanjuro maneuvering Muroto away from his armies so that Sanjuro can wipe out the bad guys in dazzling displays of swordplay, but Moroto returns to the scene.

Continue reading: Sanjuro Review

High And Low Review


Excellent
"Don't get too close, but don't take your eyes off him!" exhorts Chief Detective Tokura (Tatsuya Nakadai) to one of his assistants in Akira Kurosawa's intense crime drama High and Low. Tokura could just as well be directing the camera operator doing the distant setups in Kurosawa's distinctive telephoto lens manner. Kurosawa's style serves to optically mash all the actors together onto one confining plane as they uncomfortably breathe down each other's neck. The images populate the widescreen frame like a pressure cooker that is ready to blow up. And in High and Low, blow up they do.

Based upon Ed McBain's 87th Precinct crime novel, King's Ransom, Kurosawa transforms this pulp source into a morality play of good and evil with the stakes a man's redemption of his soul in a heartless world. High and Low is the English translation of the Japanese Tengoku to jigoku, but a more accurate translation would be "Heaven and Hell," and that is what the film conveys -- Heaven being the high-rise luxury home of National Shoe executive Kingo Gondo (Toshir? Mifune), high on a mountain overlooking the squalid Hell of juke joints, prostitutes, dope alleys, and poverty below.

Continue reading: High And Low Review

Godzilla (1954) Review


Essential
Godzilla turns 50 this year, and there is much cause for celebration. For the first time, American moviegoers get have the privilege of seeing this essential firebreathing classic in the fully restored and original version that transfixed Japanese audiences back in 1954.

It's about time. Deemed unsuitable for American release in 1956, distributors chopped 40 minutes out of the film, dubbed the rest of it poorly, and then added 20 minutes of Raymond Burr in the new role of an American journalist observing the action and adding his own absurd commentary.

Continue reading: Godzilla (1954) Review

Red Beard Review


Bad
I'd never heard of Akira Kurosawa's Red Beard before the Criterion DVD showed up in the mail, but judging from the cover and the talent appearing in it, I expected a swashbuckling samurai flick -- maybe something about a red bearded pirate?

Would that I had done my research. Red Beard is a major miss in Kurosawa's distinguished career, a three-hour opus that can be best described as a protracted retelling of General Hospital in 19th century Japan.

Continue reading: Red Beard Review

Godzilla (1954) Review


Essential
Godzilla turns 50 this year, and there is much cause for celebration. For the first time, American moviegoers get have the privilege of seeing this essential firebreathing classic in the fully restored and original version that transfixed Japanese audiences back in 1954.

It's about time. Deemed unsuitable for American release in 1956, distributors chopped 40 minutes out of the film, dubbed the rest of it poorly, and then added 20 minutes of Raymond Burr in the new role of an American journalist observing the action and adding his own absurd commentary.

Continue reading: Godzilla (1954) Review

Tomoyuki Tanaka

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Godzilla (1954) Movie Review

Godzilla (1954) Movie Review

Godzilla turns 50 this year, and there is much cause for celebration. For the first...

Godzilla (1954) Movie Review

Godzilla (1954) Movie Review

Godzilla turns 50 this year, and there is much cause for celebration. For the first...

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