Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone are two of the most influential, yet different directors in cinematic history – but they met on a crossroads. That crossroads was Fistful of Dollars, Sergio Leone's Western that took the world by storm, that was said to be a copy of Kurosawa's Yojimbo. I decided to watch both back-to-back and have my say on the matter.
I think people seem to forget that Yojimbo was more or less an homage to the Hollywood Western. Sergio Leone transposed the screenplay of Yojimbo to the Spanish desert, and he brought along a young television actor named Clint Eastwood, and together they revolutionised the western with Fistfull of Dollars, and created an entire genre – the Spaghetti Western. It wasn’t much of a stretch to replace the Japanese actors with Americans and Italians and swap out the katanas for pistols. It’s still the same dusty town, the same shoot outs on the desolate streets. Whether it’s cowboys or samurai’s, it all adds up to one excellent cinematic experience.
Yojimbo is a wonderfully tight-scripted film that uses its action with just the right touches of voracity and excitement, and in the backdrop is also a sense of humour to the process. It carries wonderful images, and skilful direction that keeps the pace of the storytelling tight and tells most of the story through images – this is the kind of film that is so good it can be watched a silent film without losing too much of its impact or meaning.
But I think it would be hard to argue that Fistful is not the more stylish of the film. From Eastwood's poncho and hat, to the final scene, to the iconic music. It sported among its attributes a gritty, desolate landscape, and a cynical, postmodern lack-of-values ideology (traditional American westerns had quite plush landscapes and were always black and white (good and evil) in their value system. Fistful made a star of Eastwood Leone and rightly so. The film captured an audience and a generation. The music is still hummed to this day.
In other words, it's kind of like comparing apples and oranges picked in the same farm. They both taste good, but they have two very distinct different tastes. Everyone is going to have their favourite, but to dismiss Fistful because it is a 'copy' would be dismissing one of the greats of American Cinema and Yojimbo is one of the greatest films of all time, so why can't we have both?
What Do You Think?
Do you prefer Fistful of Dollars?
Or does Yojimbo take your prize?
Do you love both and wish all the fighting would stop?
Let us know in the comments!