The New Seven Samurai

This past weekend I saw the stunning film Seven Samurai (七人の侍 Shichinin no samurai–1954), digitally remastered in high-def.  At 3½ hours, it was much longer than conventional films, but I was riveted the whole time.  It played at my local independent movie house. (For those of you in Bellingham, it’s part of a Masters of Japanese Cinema program by the Pickford and Western Washington University.

Akira Kurosawa, the director, created the basic recruitment-of-heroes film that has been a model for so many–The Magnificent Seven and Ocean’s Eleven, among others.  Even more, this film was a major forerunner of the introduction of Asian sensibilities–zen, aesthetics, food, style–to the American public.

Akira Kurosawa.

As Patrick Crogan of SensesOfCinema says, the movie itself was “an action film that engaged the emotions and the intellect in equal and extraordinary measures.”  I’m by no means a film expert.  But I was captivated by the water-wind-fire-mud motifs, the camera shots pitting sweeping, dynamic warrior scenes against quiet close-ups.  Everybody ran everywhere, in that village!  The strong winds blowing were intensely powerful.  It was also supremely satisfying to see some character development (or revelation) in an action movie–not easy to do.  The themes are undoubtedly tied in with the Japanese peoples’ search for identity, a clear moral code, and nationalism after World War II.  Toshiro Mifune (a major character in many of Kurosawi’s films) and Takashi Shimura star.

It’s impossible not to be engaged by this movie.  And I was not at all prepared for the enormous role humor played in the story.  If you’re looking for some good insight into what it means to be Japanese, this movie is a champion.  It ranks among the world’s best films of all time.

 

Check out–

Senses of cinema

wikipedia/Seven Samurai

Criterion Films

Masters of Japanese Cinema