After the immortal Seven Samurai, the Akira Kurosawa movie that most influenced western filmmakers is probably Yojimbo: the story of a scruffy, amoral ronin (Toshiro Mifune, natch) who wanders into a town beset by rival gangs, and solves the problem by methodically pitting them against each other. Kurosawa was inspired by the Dashiell Hammett novel Red Harvest, and his work served as the basis for the likes of A Fistful of Dollars, Miller’s Crossing, Samurai Jack… and of course, John Belushi’s send-up on Saturday Night Live. Yojimbo opened in the U.S. today in 1961.
Terrence Malick is a filmmaker one tends to appreciate more than love, and Days of Heaven is a first-rate example of why. Gorgeously shot and engineered for meditation more than plot, it still struggles to engage us with its romantic leads (Richard Gere and Brooke Adams)… or indeed any of the characters onscreen. One wonders if he couldn’t have done better with a solely abstract piece instead of an attempt to tell a story. Days of Heaven opened today in 1978.