Two films by famed Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, Yojimbo and Sanjuro, both feature actor Toshirô Mifune playing the reluctant samurai Sanjuro Kuwabatake. Toshirô was directed to act out the mannerisms of a wolf for the role. Throughout the films, he walks with his arms in his kimono. When the arms appear the visual is more strongly associated with violence than the unsheathing of his sword; a wolf bearing its teeth. Also, Toshirô shakes his shoulders as in an involuntary twitch; a wolf shaking off fleas. This may or may not have something to do with kitsune-tsuki, or fox possession. Yojimbo was remade as a spaghetti western starring Clinton Eastwood, A Fistful of Dollars. Maybe I’ll watch that next.
Kurosawa challenged his assistant directors to envision the most menacing introduction to a town gone bad, but the best idea turned out to be his own; a dog wandering the empty streets carrying a severed human hand in its mouth. Yesterday I got suckered into purchasing a high resolution digital copy of this photo from the Hartford marathon’s photographers. Two striking details; my friend Eliot appears in the frame, out of focus in the background, and I carried my car keys the duration of the race, visible in my right hand. This second fact seems to mark the photo with an indelible time stamp. Runners probably did not carry their car keys fifty years ago. Fifty years from now, they probably won’t either, and if they do, it will not be in their hand, but under their skin. If there are cars.
“This interstate is like a knife wound all across the country. Sure- you could do this sort of thing from here to California. Anyone who wants to, though, had better hurry. Before long, to go all the way across by yourself will be a fossil experience. A person or two. One car. Coast to coast. People do it now without thinking much about it. Yet it’s a most unusual kind of personal freedom- particular to this time span, the one we happen to be in. It’s an amazing, temporary phenomenon that will end. We have the best highway system in the world. It lets us do what people in no other country can do. And it is also an ecological disaster.” Karen Kleinspehn, geologist, as quoted by John McPhee, from Annals of the Former World, .