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Seven Samurai (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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One of the most thrilling movie epics of all time, SEVEN SAMURAI (Shichinin no samurai) tells the story of a sixteenth-century village whose desperate inhabitants hire the eponymous warriors to protect them from invading bandits. This three-hour ride from Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, Yojimbo, Ran)—featuring legendary actors Toshiro Mifune (Stray Dog, Yojimbo) and Takashi Shimura (Ikiru, The Hidden Fortress)—seamlessly weaves philosophy and entertainment, delicate human emotions and relentless action, into a rich, evocative, and unforgettable tale of courage and hope.
Unanimously hailed as one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of the motion picture, Seven Samurai has inspired countless films modeled after its basic premise. But Akira Kurosawa's classic 1954 action drama has never been surpassed in terms of sheer power of emotion, kinetic energy, and dynamic character development. The story is set in the 1600s, when the residents of a small Japanese village are seeking protection against repeated attacks by a band of marauding thieves. Offering mere handfuls of rice as payment, they hire seven unemployed "ronin" (masterless samurai), including a boastful swordsman (Toshiro Mifune) who is actually a farmer's son desperately seeking glory and acceptance. The samurai get acquainted with but remain distant from the villagers, knowing that their assignment may prove to be fatal. The climactic battle with the raiding thieves remains one of the most breathtaking sequences ever filmed. It's poetry in hyperactive motion and one of Kurosawa's crowning cinematic achievements. This is not a film that can be well served by any synopsis; it must be seen to be appreciated (accept nothing less than its complete 203-minute version) and belongs on the short list of any definitive home-video library. --Jeff Shannon
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In my mind 'Seven Samurai' is as close to a perfect movie as can be: it has great writing, superb acting, marvelous cinematography and terrific pacing. Not a single scene is wasted; everything that happens has importance in the overall story. Virtually every character in the film have become legendary, from Toshiro Mifune's manic Kikuchiyo to Takashi Shimura's steady, calculating Kambei and Seiji Miyaguchi's powerful but understated Kyuzo.
The fact that Seven has been copied twice as American westerns (the filmmakers would say 'adapted) and more by others shows just how great a piece of cinema this film truly is. I remain awed each time I watch it. Don't waste your time with the imitations. Go to the original.
It was nice to see it again, this time with my wife who had not seen it before.
We will probably watch "The Magnificent Seven" this weekend and compare it to the Kurosawa film. I always liked Yule Brenner in the American western inspired by this magnificent movie.
I noticed this time that the film was made in 1954, nine years after the Japanese surrendered in WWII. I wonder what impression this movie made at the time.
The theme of unemployed Samurai taking on a job to defend a village of farmer peasants for food may have reflected the mood in Japan at the time. There is a kind of nobility that comes across as the Samurai gather, plan, defend, and finally defeat the bandits that threaten the peasants. It is moving to watch the drama unfold.
A great film. Perhaps one of the greatest.
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