best film: Isuzu Yamada is a bigger part of Throne of Blood – but Yojimbo is the better film. Kurosawa’s 1961 film is yet another Kurosawa masterpiece from an artistically fertile period from the great master that started in the 1950s and extended into the early 1960s. One could easily write 1000 words on the cultural impact and cinematic influence of Yojimbo. Certainly, without Yojimbo, there would not be A Fistful of Dollars which was the breakthrough film for both Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood (two of the best 100 directors of all-time and one top 25 actor). Yojimbo leads directly to Sergio Corbucci’s Django (essentially the same plot)- and modern cinema is still seeing the reverberations of that in 21st century cinema obviously (Tarantino). Kurosawa’s Yojimbo is a pillar… an archetype. Yamada plays Orin and it is not an inconsequential role/part- but in this one she is certainly in the shadow of Toshiro Mifune- with the rest of the cast.
best performance: Osaka Elegy. Yamada’s films with Mizoguchi are not nearly as available, fashionable, and studied as her three with Kurosawa but she is the full lead here instead of backing up Mifune (and still somehow stealing scenes from him in their films together- which seems like an impossible task).
stylistic innovations/traits: Yamada’s Mizoguchi and Kurosawa collaborations are drastically different showing off her range. She is just missing one more major accomplishment on her resume (or a little more depth of archiveable filmography) to crack the top 50 on this list. Yamada is remembered for Throne of Blood and that is not a bad fate. She could clearly play the ice cold revenge role to perfection.
directors worked with: Akira Kurosawa (3) and these are later in her career in the 1950s and early 1960s and the two collaborations with Kenji Mizoguchi (2) in the 1930s.
top five performances:
- Osaka Elegy
- Thone of Blood
- Sisters of the Gion
- The Lower Depths
|1936- Osaka Elegy|
|1936- Sisters of the Gion|
|1957- The Lower Depths|
|1957- Throne of Blood|
I think it is great that Yamada made the list, I find her very talented and underrated – people don’t really talk about her. In Throne of Blood she’s the embodiment of raving madness and her Lady Macbeth is brilliant, particularly when combined with Mifune’s turn – they are excellent. Now I’m very interested in your making a page with your notes on Osaka Elegy, which made a growing impression on me. It is a great meditation on the place of women in the mid 30’s Japanese society and probably one of the earliest examples of such a gender study. The ending is simple and brilliant and I also like the little metaphor Mizoguchi blended in it, with her staring at floating rubbish, which reflects the way she is viewed by society.