Friday, 30 May 2014

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1961: Tatsuya Nakadai in Yojimbo

Tatsuya Nakadai did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Unosuke in Yojimbo.

Yojimbo is a film filled with scoundrels as almost all the speaking parts of the film are villains. There are only a few exceptions such as the fed up inn owner, the coffin maker, and of course the samurai played by Toshiro Mifune. Mifune has such strong presence that almost all these villains are overwhelmed and overshadowed unless they know how to play off him. Takashi Shimura certainly knows how, but is unable to do so here since he never directly interacts with Mifune. Luckily though there is another actor with a star quality of his own and that of course is Tatsuya Nakadai. Nakadai is actually the final villain to make an appearance as Unosuke who is the second in command to one of the crime lords, and appears after coming back from his travels along with a gun.

Although the appearance of the gun of course establishes Unosuke as a threat, as everyone else is fighting with only swords, he is truly established as such by Nakadai's performance. Tatsuya Nakadai a very interesting actor as he has such almost breezy manner in his performances yet his presence is always clearly felt. Nakadai's way about the screen is pretty much a perfect match for Mifune, and it is easy to see why Kurosawa cast Nakadai as the villain against Mifune once again in the sequel to Yojimbo, Sanjuro. With all the other villains it is obvious that Mifune/the samurai seems to command over all, but once Nakadai shows up the samurai plan seems like it may not be so easy anymore. Nakadai as Unosuke makes a worthy adversary for Mifune as the samurai.

Apparently Kurosawa told Mifune to play the samurai as a wolf which helped him create that distinctive twitch, and he also gave Nakadai an animal in mind but for him it was a snake. Mifune made brilliant use of the idea and so does Nakadai. Nakadai also is a very physical performer and the way he infuses the "snake"  in to his performance is remarkable. Where Mifune had the broader movement of a wolf, Nakadai is very withdrawn as he slinks around so smoothly making Unosuke stand out very well among the group of slovenly criminals around him. One of my favorite movements Nakadai employs is the way he pulls out the pistol he moves his arm very much like a Snake preparing to strike. It is later said that Unosuke feels the pistol is an extension on himself and Nakadai realizes this quality quite beautifully.

Unosuke technically speaking is not even the main villain since he actually is not even the head of his own gang. Nakadai thoroughly commands in his scenes with his substantial charisma and he most importantly challenges Mifune in every scene they share together that further emphasizes that Unosuke is perhaps a match for the samurai. One of the best scenes in the film is when Unosuke confronts the samurai over the disappearance of a woman who was being held captive by his gang. Nakadai's reaction are terrific in the scenes as he has that piercing and so very sly of a stare as Nakadai suggests that Unosuke is constantly taking apart the samurai lies. Mifune and Nakadai play off each other exceptionally well with Mifune and Nakadai trading the right knowing glances as Unosuke and the samurai try to outsmart one another.

Nakadai like Mifune is quite entertaining by really having so much fun with the role. Nakadai is rather cleverly entertaining in his depiction of Unosuke who he gives this terrific smugness. One of the most memorable qualities of this performance is that absolutely perfect smile that comes to his face whenever something happens to be going his way, or if he ever is challenged by someone. Nakadai's smile honestly almost looks like a cartoon snake, and it is just so good in portraying the extreme deviousness of Unosuke. The pistol of course gives Unosuke a terrific advantage over all the other fighters. Nakadai's sleazy pompousness is so great because Nakadai shows that Unosuke knows of this advantage, and just loves the fact that no one seems to have a chance against him.

Tatsuya Nakadai gives a great supporting performance and serves the film wonderfully by making a villain worthy for Mifune's nameless samurai. Nakadai's performance feels effortless in creating the substantial menace he carries with his performance. Like Mifune he as well makes the most out of the animal basis for the physical elements of his performance. Like Mifune once again all of the animal manner seems completely natural to his character, and only makes Unosuke stand out all the more as a character in the film. When the final duel comes Nakadai creates the needed threat for the scene, and when Unosuke is defeated its all the sweeter just to take that smug look off his face. Nakadai particularly strong in this scene as he portrays that Unosuke is completely lost without his gun and obviously defeated. There is a wonderful moment though where the samurai gives him his gun and Unosuke thinks he has a chance to kill the samurai. Nakadai brings that smile back one more time to show Unosuke confidence is the pistol. Nakadai  is extremely effective and makes a memorable demise as he makes the loss of the smile equate to the loss of Unosuke's life. One more time I must say like Mifune's performance in this film, I love this performance.


Michael McCarthy said...

What are your ratings and thoughts for Nakadai's performances in High and Low and The Face of Another, as well as your ratings for the rest of the cast of High and Low?

RatedRStar said...

I love how he pulls the gun out everytime and then cockily smiles =D as if he knows he is better than you are lol.

luke higham said...

Louis: Which Decade are you working on after this.

John Smith said...

2000 please (:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

He just did the 2000's. He's not doing them again for a while.

luke higham said...

He'll go back to the 2000's, October-November time.

Louis Morgan said...


High and Low - 4.5(Technically a simple role in that the inspector is just there to help solve the case, but Nakadai handles it particularly well by making the most of every reaction throughout the case and makes a character in between the lines of moving the plot forward. It's interesting that he played the villain in his two previous Kurosawa collaborations since there is a nice undercurrent of warmth he brings to his performance here)

The Face of Another - 4.5(A very creepy bit of work from Nakadai here in his portrayal of a despairing and almost painfully cynical man whose lost his face in an accident. He's makes the man almost a sinister ghost for the first half of the film but is effective when the man gains his face again by showing the life that returns the man. He's particularly off putting in this in that he makes this new life so terribly hollow)

High and Low:

Kenjiro Ishiyama - 4
Isao Kimura - 3.5
Tatsuya Mihasi - 3
Kyoko Kagawa - 3
Takeshi Kato - 3
Takashi Shimura - 2.5


Either the 50's or the 70's.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your rating & thoughts on James Garner in The Great Escape.

Louis Morgan said...

Garner - 4.5(Garner has a tendency to ham it up too much with some of his performances, but in The Great Escape he never overplays it instead utilizes his charm to create a very likable character. Most importantly though he has some great chemistry with Donald Pleasance and the two make for an unlikely but very endearing pair)

Michael McCarthy said...

Louis, do you think you're going to see Ran anytime soon or are you thinking about waiting until the bonus rounds so you can review Nakadai?

RatedRStar said...

Would you say The Face Of Another is worth watching cause it looks very interesting, sort of similar to the creepy Eyes Without A Face (1959)

Louis Morgan said...

Michael McCarthy: I probably should, but I suppose Nakadai does seem like a prime candidate for the bonus rounds.

RatedRStar: I would say so. It's far from perfect but it's certainly an interesting watch.