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Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (One of the Great Films!)


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I'm a pretty massive film buff and have seen a ridiculous number of in particular old films. Pirate films of the 30's, War films from the 30's-50's (I think I've seen them all), the classics, cowboy and spaghetti westerns. I recently rewatched Citizen Kane and oddly saw Akiro Kurosawa's Seven Samurai for the very first time. While Kane is by and large regarded as the greatest film of all time (you can tell why- as Peter Bogdanovich explains in the 'Battle Over Citizen Kane'- the film was fourty years ahead of it's time.) Seven Samurai is a serious contender.

The humour and comraderie between the Samurai is undeniable. Toshire Mofine (Kukichiyo) the wannabe Samurai of the madman cover image is an iconic and lasting film presence. But the complexity of the farmer's deception and feigned innocence, the lush landscape, the fighting and well honed characters add to make a gripping 3 and half hours of film. Don't think it's like some boring art house movie either. You're just right there with them and you almost don't want the movie to stop.

If anyone has some time off as I imagine you do and want to get into an epic Samurai movie this is the greatest.

Kurosawa’s martial epic remains one of the two or three great action films of all time. With its massive emotional range, dazzling technical virtuosity, and sensitivity to the natural universe, it remains after nearly fifty years a supreme example of cinema’s power to arouse and astound us.

In 16th Century Japan, an isolated farming hamlet is threatened by a large company of bandits that is pillaging the countryside. In desperation the farmers decide to recruit samurai warriors to defend their village, and though the poverty-stricken peasants can only offer food as compensation, they attract an eclectic band of seven men who accept the challenge for a variety of personal reasons. For all of their virtue and prowess, the samurai make for strange heroes by our lights: all of their actions are undercut by a whiff of futility, and their only sense of belonging comes from the temporary alliances they form in battle. Kurosawa also upends the stereotype of the farmer as a simple tiller of the earth: his peasants are psychologically stifled, secretly murderous creatures.

The story’s complications arise from the social and class differences between samurai and farmer, and these tensions play themselves out over the course of Seven Samurai’s 208-minute running time. As the samurai turn the village into a fortress and form its denizens into an army, it’s left to Kambei (Takashi Shimura), the samurais’ leader, to maintain order between the two clans as they (and we) await the return of the brigands. Kambei’s task is made no easier by the volatile personalities surrounding him. Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), a besotted pretender to samurai status, is secretly goaded by the rage and shame of being a farmer’s son. The farmer Rikichi (Yoshio Tsuchiya) is a young firebrand whose temper is constantly stoked by the memory of a wife snatched away from him by the bandits. Katsushiro (Isao Kimura), the youngest of the samurai, is tentatively accepted into the group as Kambei’s apprentice, but his rawness leads him into an affair with one of the village’s girls that threatens the group’s stability.

There are other characters and subplots, equally simple in conception, that are saved from cliche by the compassion that Kurosawa sheds on them. The most distrustful and pigheaded of the farmers is allowed the dignity of his pain when his greatest fear—having his daughter seduced by a samurai—becomes a reality. (Seven Samurai has a modern—and surprisingly bitter—sexual edge, most vividly expressed in the languorously extended shot of a woman driven half-mad by brutality as she seizes the chance to avenge herself on her captors.) Even the bandits’ deaths are made into ghastly, appalling affairs by the villagers’ ravenous appetite for revenge.

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watched all of Short Cuts again last night which I'd been meaning to do since Altman's exit... such an engaging, broad ranging, emotional/thought provoking flick... a good story always makes you evaluate your priorities and moral compass

thanks for the heads up on Seven Samurai (and Hidden Fortress)... don't believe I've had the pleasure (though it might've snuck by me some late night on City TV), and seem to be stuck home with a sore throat

am a first and second world wars film buff, and anything historical (the guy who loathed history in high school) so...

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