Thursday, January 21, 2010

189. KUROSAWA 4: Zoku sugata sanshiro (Judo Saga II) [1945]

Zoku sugata sanshiro (Judo Saga II) [1945]

This is Kurosawa's fourth film!

There are a few very cool moments! There are some interesting shots. A few of the characters are memorable. It is a sequel.

But it was made during the last year of the war -- a time when defeat was finally acknowledged (if not completely openly); when a filmmaker considered himself lucky to be able to make a film at all (and after all, how do you say no to the Emperor?); when said filmmaker considered himself lucky to have a small lighting rig which his man had cobbled together from shoelaces...

Kurosawa claims that he was not very enthusiastic about making the sequel, and it definitely shows.

Most AK fans consider this to be his worst film. Go see it!

It is 1887, five years later. Sanshiro (Susumu Fujita) is back from his travels. He witnesses a brutal American sailor (Osman Yusef, a Turk) beating up a young rickshaw boy, Daisuburo (Ko Ishida). As in the original, someone gets thrown into the river. In Sugata I, the villain was the westernized Gennosuke Higaki (Ryunosuke Tsukigata); in II the evil is combined into Gennosuke's two younger brothers, Teshin (played by Tsukigata) and the crazy, Noh-influenced Genzaburo (Akitake Kôno). After winning the big fight at the end, Genzaburo tries to kill Sugata with an axe, but Sugata smiles in his sleep and Genzaburo and his brother suddenly see the light. Sugata smiles even more broadly...

For a detailed, frame-by-frame analysis of this film, click here.

SsII1 This is funny because Sugata said the same thing about judo in the first film!

Until just a few weeks ago, the only available version of this film featured subtitles which were created in Hong Kong by Chinese who apparently were not well acquainted with either the Japanese or the English language!

But help is on the way (I am told). This link takes you to the new AK 100 box, which (I am told) contains a brand new translation of this film and the others with similar problems. If you make it to the Film Forum on Monday, you should also see a new, readable translation.

Other than that,
  • The boxing matches are beautifully edited ~ you feel like you're getting a glimpse of what he would achieve in later years. Kurosawa's editing was always a major factor in what made his films so great and so captivating...
  • A nice dramatic moment: Sugata is trying to get away from the horrible boxing match; he lingers by the door as he watches (the Sugata theme is playing) -- finally he opens the doors, turns to face the camera, and slams them shut, with the music crashing on a chord as the doors slam shut...
  • The scene where Yano enters the room where Sugata has been drinking (against rules) and kicks the sake bottle around is precious! Great editing/timing...
  • Daisuburo (the rickshaw boy) wants to learn judo. At his lesson with Sugata he is thrown no less than 14 times.
  • He faces the camera and bows. As he rises from his bow, another image of the boy enters the room (it is the same boy), as the first boy dissolves and the second repeats the action. The third dissolves as before, and bows as before. However, one can begin to detect very slight differences in each version of the boy. By this third version, he seems a bit more cocky in his walk, a bit more confident in his bows! The fourth version of the boy walks in much slower, tugs at his kimono belt, and sits. He picks up something in front of him and tosses it to his right; something else to his left; and then faces the camera. He bows. Very beautiful sequence...
  • The scene with the priest (Kokuten Kôdô) and Sugata is wonderful: Sugata can't sleep; the priest says he'll stay up and think with him. Sugata starts to talk, but the priest interrupts, shouting: "don't make noise." Sugata is still. "You must look at those who tackle you -- until he disappears. Understand?" Close on Sugata. He is staring straight ahead, trying achieve satori. The "Sugata" theme begins. POV behind the two, a fire burning. A gorgeous dissolve has Sugata (and the fire) disappearing from their former positions, and dissolving into Sugata prone on the floor. The priest never changes. The music tells us it is morning (trilling flute) and we change angles to a prone, sleeping Sugata, shot from above, his arms outstretched as he sleeps...his eyes open; his head turns. He sits up with a start. "I still can't do that," he says, bowing his head quickly. He turns to look at the priest. He stares. He moves closer. Cut to opposite angle, Sugata on the left staring at the sleeping priest on the right, in profile. The priest moves his mouth, as if to indicate he had always been awake. Sugata smiles -- perhaps because he is relieved the priest did not attain satori when he could not; or perhaps because he is amused by what he knows is a deception on the part of the priest; or both; or neither ... but it's a cute scene in an otherwise dreadful film ...
  • The final fight scene would have been beautiful if Kurosawa had had any decent film stock and/or lighting equipment. As it is, it looks like a play of shadows...
  • There are no wipes in this film.

1 comment: