The punctuation of Yojimbo

The punctuation of Yojimbo cannot be explained by camera cuts and frame speed alone. Here, music and movements are heavily deployed to enforce punctuation. The film’s beginning and end depict overture and postlude. The heroism of our protagonist is accompanied with a musical theme and distinctive styles. Here, the subtle interplay of movements create magic!

In the scenes where Mifune gets both sides to fight each other and sits and enjoys on the fire tower, the camera is deliberately placed very low so that not only Mifune, but also each side in the battle is visible. They emerge, therefore from either side of the screen, just like they would have, if it was a stage play, and their movements are dramatic. The scenes inside the sake shop looking out is created with an entire series of compositions which depend on windows opening and closing, the camera dollying forward and sideways, the actors turning their heads, obscuring the line of vision, and sometimes allowing one to see, creating an enormously subtle interplay of movements. To add more, Kurosawa heavily uses wipe as punctuation- just like a curtain opening or closing that separates scenes from actions.

The last punctuational aspect that needs to discussed is the use of Mifune’s mannerisms. Although Kurosawa uses Mifune’s mannerisms time and again to add punctuational beauty and characterization. For example, in Drunken Angel, Mifune’s servile bow coupled with an arrogant toss of head adds to his gangster character. In both Rashomon and Seven Samurai, Mifune’s leaps, capers and pulling at corners of the mouth add to Mifune’s ruthlessness. In Yojimbo, Mifune’s mannerism has been used to add punctuation more than ever before. First there is the distinguished walk, then the hand on chin, and finally there is the munching of the toothpick, all of these look reflective and at the same time, very informal!

I once saw Kurosawa as a director. As times have passed, I have come to see a philosopher in him. The way Kurosawa sees through and re-orders the visible world in terms of spectacle, movement, composition, and beauty, often leaves me speechless and delighted! Kudos!


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