Thursday, January 17, 2013

#885. Seven Samurai (1954)

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa

Starring: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima

Tag line: "The Mighty Warriors Who Became the Seven National Heroes of a Small Town"

Trivia: Akira Kurosawa's original idea for the film was to make it about a day in the life of a samurai, beginning with him rising from bed and ending with him making some mistake that required him to kill himself to save face

Of all the marvelous films that Akira Kurosawa directed, including such classics as Rashomon, Yojimbo,and Ran, Seven Samurai stands as his crowning achievement. A thrilling adventure inspired by the westerns of John Ford, Seven Samurai would itself be re-imagined in 1960 as a pretty entertaining American western, John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven.

Set in the 16th century, Seven Samurai centers on a small Japanese farming village that, once a year, is raided by a roving gang of bandits. Unable to defend themselves, they ask Kambei (Takashi Shimura), a samurai living in a nearby town, for his help. Though they are unable to pay for his services, Kambei is nonetheless moved by their situation, and promises to recruit additional samurai to assist in their struggle. 

In all, Kambei convinces six others, including the brash Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), to join him. Together, these seven teach the villagers how to fight, and stand alongside them when the bandits, who outnumber the samurai by more than four to one, return.

The story is simple enough, yet the manner in which Kurosawa presents it is anything but; throughout Seven Samurai, the great director employs a number of cinematic tricks that, while quite innovative at the time, have since become commonplace. His use of slow-motion during the final battle brings an added touch of drama to an already tense situation. 

Along with its impressive style, Seven Samurai also delves into the relationship that develops between the samurai and the people they’ve agreed to help, many of whom don’t fully trust their "guests". Some even hide their daughters, out of fear the samurai will try to rape them. It’s an interesting contrast: the skilled warriors and the humble farmers, and Kurosawa explores this unusual dichotomy to its fullest. 

The film’s best sequence, however, is the final battle referenced above, a stirring confrontation that takes place in a driving rainstorm, during which the samurai and the villagers, fighting side by side, do everything they can to hold off, then defeat, their common foe. This climactic conflict is among the most exciting action sequences ever committed to film, and Seven Samurai is, in turn, one of the cinema’s most enduring masterpieces.


Unknown said...

Never even heard of this one..I'll have to check it out.

Anonymous said...

It was remade in Hollywood as the 'Magnificent Seven', but the original is a much better film.