#289 Seven Samurai (Shichinin No Samurai / 七人の侍) (1954)

Seven Samurai is simply one of the greatest films of all time directed by one of the greatest directors of all time. This film blurs the lines between all genres, skipping through comedy, drama, war, romance, period, allegory, action, adventure, political and social commentary, and everything in between. Its hours fly by incredibly quickly because of its minimalist script, engaging performances, and a pace that masterfully combines art and commercial wonder. In one moment an apprehensive shot with sneaking movements can explode into a disparate, confusing battle with enemies on all fronts. Even the first hour of the film with the farmers of the tiny village searching for the samurai they need may seem boring on paper, but Kurosawa’s masterful storytelling opens the doors to narrative wide, and we feel and experience wonder, desperate longing, and the truth in every moment they share cobbling together their small army. When Toshiro Mifune happens upon the scene, as in all Kurosawa films, absolute magic happens.

There is no doubt that this film would be one to be reworked in so many ways as source material. I also recently watched 1960’s The Magnificent Seven (which is not in Schneider’s 1001) which lacks the true power, chemistry, and emotional impact of Seven Samurai (even though it is clearly a well-made populist flick). Of course, The Three Amigos also happens to be another wildly popular and fun take on Kurosawa’s film. There is no doubt that this picture captures some universal truths about humanity and the public attending the cinema, portraying all of us in the beautifully performed characterization presented by a stellar ensemble cast.

The Seven Samurai is truly one of the greatest epics ever made.

I have always loved Kurosawa and Mifune in an unhealthy way. Having watched Seven Samurai several times in college, and often teaching Throne of Blood with Macbeth, it was a pleasure approaching this film again. The perspective through which I watched it this time was quite different than before. As an MFA student, I was absolutely enthralled at Kurosawa’s approach to storytelling using a sparse script that managed to provide unparalleled characterization opportunities for such a large cast on the screen while keeping the dialogue and action to the absolute minimum. Something definitely worthy of trying to emulate in my own work.

I love this movie so much. Throughout the film, I gasped at the splendor of the framing, the excitement and the drama of the mud sprayed battles, and the masculinity of the characters who made me truly desire for the bravery of each of the men while also recognizing the spectrum of fault and fear within. An excellent, excellent film.

I watched Seven Samurai on Criterion, #2.


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