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Seven Samurai (The Criterion Collection)
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Kurosawa masterfully composed his shots to emphasize these group dynamics, and Seven Samurai is a textbook study of the director's signature techniques, including extensive use of telephoto lenses to compress action, delineate character relationships, and intensify motion. While the climactic battle against raiding thieves remains one of the most breathtaking sequences ever filmed, Seven Samurai is most triumphant as a peerless example of character development, requiring all of its 2-hour, 37-minute running time to illuminate every essential detail of villagers and samurai alike, including an abundance of humor as Kambei's defense plan unfolds. In terms of its overall impact, Seven Samurai spawned dozens of copycat films (notably the American Western remake The Magnificent Seven) and cannot be adequately summarized by even the most comprehensive synopsis; it must be seen to be fully appreciated, and the Criterion Collection's 2006 DVD reissue is an essential addition to any definitive home-video library. --Jeff Shannon
On the DVDs
According to the accompanying booklet, "the picture has been slightly window-boxed (in correct original 1.33:1 aspect ratio) to ensure that the maximum image is visible on all monitors." The two-disc format was necessary "to maintain optimal image quality throughout the compression process," with dual-layered DVD-9's encoded "at the highest possible bit rate for the quantity of material included." The picture and sound quality are simply amazing compared to Criterion's one-disc release from 1998. The all-new, fully restored high-definition digital transfer takes full advantage of HD's clarity and crispness, resulting in picture detail far surpassing the previous DVD. This also applies to the soundtrack, presented in optional Dolby surround in addition to the remastered original mono track. The new transfer "was mastered in 2k resolution from a duplicate negative created with wetgate processing from the original fine-grain master positive" (the film's original negative is no longer available), and "several different digital hardware and software solutions were utilized for flicker, instability, dirt, scratch, and grain management."
The complete 207-minute film is accompanied by two full-length commentary tracks, including a new track combining the critical insights of film scholars David Desser, Joan Mellen, Stephen Price (author of The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa), Tony Rayns, and the dean of Japanese film experts, Donald Richie (author of The Films of Akira Kurosawa). Each scholar is given approximately 40 minutes of film-time, and their commentaries represent a unique opportunity to appreciate Seven Samurai from distinct yet complem\ entary critical perspectives. The commentary by Japanese film expert Michael Jeck (from Criterion's original 1988 laserdisc release) The commentary by Japanese film expert Michael Jeck (from Criterion's original 1988 laserdisc release) remains useful as a thorough analysis of Seven Samurai, primarily in terms of visual composition.
The 50-minute "making of" documentary, from Japan's 2002 Toho Masterworks TV series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create emphasizes Kurosawa's colla boration with co-screenwriters Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni, including production footage, crewmember interviews, and a reverent visit to the rural inn where Seven Samurai was written over a six-week period of intense seclusion. The two-hour "My Life in Cinema" interview with Kurosawa was recorded in 1993, with fellow filmmaker Nagisa Oshima serving as a gentle admirer, colleague, and well-informed historian of Kurosawa's career. "Seven Samurai: Origins and Influences" is a richly informative documentary that places Kurosawa's classic in both historical and cinematic context, examining its place in the jidai-gecki (swordplay) genre, its accurate depiction of samurai codes and traditions, and its stature as the prototype for many films that followed. The lavishly illustra ted 58-page booklet includes eight brief essays on various aspects of Seven Samurai, each written by noted film scholars or film directors (including Arthur Penn and Sidney Lumet). Also included is a reminiscence by the great actor T oshiro Mifune, excerpted from a conversation recorded in 1993. Taken as a whole, the remastered three-disc Seven Samurai ranks as one of the finest DVD sets ever released. --Jeff Shannon
Stills from Seven Samurai - 3 Disc Remastered Edition (Click for larger image)
Top Customer Reviews
I had been hearing for a while now about a new version of Seven Samurai coming out on Criterion that was supposed to have a brand new transfer from a recently discovered source that was to be greatly improved from any other previous edition. Being one of the most beloved films of all time (and one of mine as well), this has been creating alot of excitement in the world of film lovers. Being perfectly satisfied with my version of the Seven Samurai DVD from 1998, I had no plans to upgrade, but a side by side comparison on an internet site peaked my curiosity. And yesterday, being at a local retailer, I saw it on the shelf and decided to spring for it.
Let me tell you....if ANY of you are on the fence about this one, particularly those of you who are big fans of this amazing film, I advise you to go for it. The difference between this edition and the previous edition is so drastic that I could not believe my eyes and ears. I have never had this experience with a DVD before, but the improvements in picture and sound quality are SO great that I actually felt like I was watching Seven Samurai for the first time.Read more ›
This is a true 5 star films that ANYONE will enjoy. It's particulary recommended to those who would never dream of watching a movie with subtitles. Anyone looking for a great action movie should take a chance on this. Unlike that copy of Armageddon you watched once and is now collecting dust on your shelf, this is something you'll watch again and again. For those who love John Ford-type westerns, The Seven Samurai puts a marvelous spin on that classic genre. Even if you don't like action movies, you'll respond to this movie. It offers genuine human drama with an insight into a different culture and time that becomes increasingly fascinating with repeated viewings.
Of course, it's also recommended to those who already know and love this film. The picture on this DVD is much sharper and crisper than the one you're used to seeing on that worn-out VHS tape. As a bonus, it has a very insightful secondary audio track with commentary from a Japanese film historian that will help you develop a new appreciation for one of your old favorites.
For me this film deals with the heroic, albeit in realistic terms. I have shown the film in World Literature classes, after students have read Homer's "Iliad" and as they begin reading Cervantes' "Don Quixote." Within that context, compared to the brutal arrogance of Achilles and the gentle insanity of Quixote, the heroic qualities of the seven samurai become clear. Their inspiration extends to some of the villagers.Read more ›
From the very first time I watched this film I was spellbound by it's power and glory....Kurosawa painstakingly assembled a team of actors with wonderful synergy and expression that are at the core of this unforgettable tale of hopes & dreams, death & revenge and honor & trust. Kurosawa's explosive and dynamic battle sequences, some filmed in driving rain, are equally balanced within the films context by the sadness and emotion of the heartfelt scenes, such as where Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune) reveals his upbringings to the rest of the Samurai.
This moving, provacative and challenging film is an epic that still stands head and shoulders over many others nearly 50 years after it's initial release...and a film that you can watch time and time again, and uncover another gem within it's rich tapestry upon each repeated viewing. I've shown this movie to many friends who were either not interested in older black and white productions...or not keen on subtitled movies...and they have all enjoyed it and remarked how they never knew that they could relish a 50 year old movie so much !!
This film truly belongs in any persons movie collection who considers themselves a true afficiando of cinema...an experience in emotion, energy and vision that will not be forgotten by those who view this wonderful work.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
My family and I have watched this movie at least three times and it never fails to entertain. We recently watched it again while traveling in Japan and it put us in the perfect... Read morePublished 7 days ago by Nancy A. Treder
A family member loves this movie, they watched our last copy so many times that the DVD stopped working. They are going to love this item.Published 17 days ago by Amazon Customer
Excellent. The photography, the acting and the drama were second to none. I see why an American director made the "Magnificent Seven" However that movie can't hold a... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Nathaniel N.
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