Friday, July 26, 2013

Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai is a 1954 Japanese Toho film best known as the inspiration for The Magnificent Seven. Actually The Magnificent Seven is a remarkably faithful remake, just translated into the Western genre. Directed by Akira Kurosawa, Seven Samurai features Takashi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune, both favorites of ours. I've seen this several times and never tire of it. It is universally acknowledged as a film classic.

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The book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die includes this film. Salon.com speaks highly of the audio commentary by Japanese film scholar Michael Jeck which is on the Criterion edition. Bright Lights Film Journal says it "is as riveting today as it was when it was released, an annihilating melodrama that works equally well on the epic and the intimate scale." Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and says, "In his staging of sword duels and mass battles, Kurosawa changed the way action scenes were shot." DVD Talk opens with this:
When I find out that someone hasn't seen Seven Samurai, I almost feel sorry for them. How could they have missed out on one of the biggest crowd pleasers of cinema? That fades rather fast, however, when I realize that means I will get the pleasure of introducing them to the film, that I will be making way for something that can't fail to be a positive stop on their movie-going journey.
Slant Magazine says,
The great irony regarding Akira Kurosawa's seminal masterpiece Seven Samurai is how much it reveals about this widening rift between classic and modern action films. Seven Samurai's plethora of once-groundbreaking action aesthetics have now become seamlessly and organically ingrained into mainstream genre filmmaking, yet its strikingly pure themes of sacrifice, friendship, and camaraderie seem downright radical by today's action-film standards.
Roger Ebert has it on his list of Great Movies. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%. There is some background historical information here. CNN.com has an article on "How 'Seven Samurai' was saved".

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