A Month of Kurosawa: Sanshiro Sugata part 2 (1945)

To celebrate the upcoming release of my book, Akira Kurosawa: A Viewer’s Guide, due out Dec. 15 from Rowman & Littlefield — preorder here! — I’ll be doing capsule reviews all month covering every single Kurosawa film and posting (very) brief excerpts. These will be short impressions and recommendations, nothing more. For a full, detailed analysis of each, grab the book!

Sanshiro Sugata part 2 (1945)

Sequels! One of two made by Kurosawa, and this one is like a 1940s version of the Rocky series, in which the titular character faces the brothers of the guy he defeated in the first movie.

This is many ways a rehash of the first, though it does feature some rather sharp criticism on the brutality of American boxing (and the west in general), making it mildly interesting in that regard.

Yes, there’s some war-era propaganda here!

From the book:

A man without a purpose can never be great. The same holds true for a film.

If there is a message to be taken from Sanshiro Sugata Part Two, the sequel to 1943’s Sanshiro Sugata, perhaps that’s it. Kurosawa did not want to make this film. It was a project foisted upon him by a studio eager to chase money. The director dutifully fulfilled his obligations, but his lack of passion for the project is evident in almost every frame. The sole reason for this film’s existence was monetary. Greatness was not on the agenda.

There are some good sequences, to be sure, especially the blistering criticism of western culture during a crucial boxing match — the snow-covered climax on a stark white mountaintop is less impressive than you’d expect — but overall this is probably the largest dud in an otherwise impeccable career.

Casual fans shouldn’t bother and big Kurosawa fans should see it only to say they have see ’em all. And if I may be so bold, I suspect even the director himself would say as much.

You can get the movie in this excellent boxed set.