Movie - 4.5
Alright, my third Kurosawa film! Here we have the continuing adventures of Sanjuurou in the self-titled movie, which amply reflects a good majority of the elements that made Youjimbou so successful. We're essentially presented with the same mix of comedy and drama (albeit, of a lighter nature), tantalizing swordplay (much bloodier), and a still very appealing protagonist, though not quite to the magnitude of its predecessor. However, what Sanjuurou lacks in overall bravado, it makes up for in some great character development and complexity. After listening to the very insightful commentary, I found that a lot of the elements in this movie helped to fill some of the character gaps and actually compliment Sanjuurou to make him a more complete person. Furthermore, the screenplay also differentiates itself from the previous film with the whole "unsheathed sword" analogy and its message on the brutality of violence, as opposed to its necessity in the former, and its focus on traditionalism, as opposed to Youjimbou's take on modernism. Instead of glorifying the bloodshed we were led to believe as a necessary, almost obligatory, catalyst for change in the first film, we learn here that even if killing is required, living with it is the hardest part of all. We're also exposed to the softer side of Sanjuurou here, as seen in his interactions with the rebel samurai. His brash and eccentric nature has always been a part of his charisma, though we get to see him display a little more compassion, maybe even a kind of paternal instinct for those young men. This complimentary piece to the tale of Sanjuurou is much more light-hearted, but at the same time adds a more intimate and subtle look to the man.
Video - 4.5
The video isn't quite as striking as it is for Youjimbou, but Sanjuurou still looks relatively good. Contrast, black levels, and overall sharpness show about the same level of excellence as its predecessor, though it does have a few moments of inconsistency. Images appear fuzzy, contrast or blacks are too high/low, and some shots even show instances of film damage, but only on occasion. Facial features and object detail still look amazing for a movie filmed in b&w, and I was particularly surprised at some of the shadow delineation in some of the night scenes.
Audio - 4.5
While the video transfer isn't as good, the audio is. The 3.0 DTS-HD track offers a clear and presentable effort with no loss of quality in the dialogue, music, or sound effects. Ambiance is as good as its predecessor with center and front side speakers engaging in their respective elements. Of special note, there are more instances of sword slash and flesh-cut noises as opposed to the wind effects and emphasis of the score in the previous film. The running water sounds also create a pretty pleasant atmosphere.
Extras - 4.0
More of the same as in Youjimbou: 35-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, a very in-depth commentary by Stephen Price, and a nifty little book with essays about Kurosawa and his work. I actually found the b-t-s feature a little less interesting than Youjimbou's. It tends to focus more on the writing/acting aspects and effects departments, but not so much on the filming process itself. Some of the cinematography was cool to look at, and it would've been nice to hear about the shooting locations as well. However, the commentary makes up for it a good deal, showing that Mr. Price, yet again, really knows his stuff.
Overall - 4.5
Sanjuurou is a great complimentary piece to Kurosawa's Youjimbou. It's not really a "sequel" in the structural sense, but more so a spiritual one. We get to see more of what makes him the man, as well as getting a few life lessons from his words and actions. While it's probably not quite as captivating as its first incarnation, this makes a fine addition to any Kurosawa or samurai fan's collection. Highly recommended.