Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Seven Samurai (1954)

TOP 100 FILMS: #1
OVERALL SCORE: 11/10 (oh yes, I went there)

After years of having their crops stolen, women abused, and lives thrown into misery, a group of peasant farmers, with nothing but rice to offer, hire 7 samurai to protect their village.

"So. Again we are defeated."

If I've said it here once, I've said it a thousand times, if a movie is in my top 10 it's there for a very important reason. One that can't be simply brushed aside for just any film. And out of all of them, Seven Samurai is the king. Epic in its dealing with action, characters, and morality, Seven Samurai is the very essence of everything I love about cinema. It's well built, structurally adept, and presents its audience with a wide range of emotions for them to feast upon. Each character, each moment, echoes throughout my mind like those beautiful lullabies you still remember from as a kid. Simply put, no film excites me more to see, or hear about than Seven Samurai.

And, much like, Ikiru I'll give you up front it's not "perfect." But I fully believe everything in it has a purpose, or if not I've got one for it. There's a certain beauty to the films we love. Seven Samurai grasps that very essence for me, in a way no other film does. No matter how hard I try, I can shake my sheer love for watching it. The opening shots, the notions of true suffering, and what is the point of a peasants miserable and poor experience. To the final still of a waving flag, highlighting the relationships gained, and lost, throughout the journey.

It's an epic of truly massive proportion. We see Kambei (Takashi Shimura) stand strong as the leader of this mis-match group of soldiers. We see Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune) grow as a person, shedding his false wild exterior, and realizing what truly matters to him, accepting his past. Katsushiro's (Isao Kimura) growth from a boy to a man, and his realization of the true cost of war. And alongside them are many of the Kurosawa staples. The powerful Kyozo (Seiji Miyaguchi). The fun loving woodcutter, Heihachi (Minoru Chiaki). Shichiroji (Daisuke Kato), Kambei's seasoned friend and old ally. Gorobei (Yoshino Inaba), the second in command and loyal soldier.

Together they create a team so memorable I secretly wish I had the opportunity to meet them.

Yet, for all the fun, humor, and emotion, of the first hour and half buildup, Kurosawa's Seven Samurai throws in a stark reminder: war is not something to love. People die in war. Samurai, villagers, bandits. And it is here that I think Kurosawa executes a powerful sequence. The shift in tone as the first Samurai falls is felt from the strongest of the samurai to the viewer in the audience. It's quick, so quick you can't even believe it happened. Just a moment ago he was right there. And it's a notion echoed throughout the rest of the film.

Once the epic final confrontation occurs, Kurosawa reminds the audience in war, there's no time to sit down and mourn all those who lost. Perhaps that's why those of the Samurai that do die, always do so quickly. And just as they are the entire village is thrown immediately into another battle. Only those who survive must live with the loss. Which gives rise to the film's final lines. The stark question in the form of a never ending realization: who really wins a war? Is it the ones who fought, or the ones who benefit?

That's where Seven Samurai lays. Between the action, the humor, and the characters, is the moral principles it designs. The use of slow motion, romance, and epic fight sequences are merely a ploy. They're there to give you a great, and beautiful, while simple story. It's the morality that's meant to move you. Even in Kurosawa's most "Hollywood" films he never ignored those aching moral questions laying throughout humanity, and Seven Samurai is no different. It's gripping, thrilling tale, is so powerful, because it has the strength to back it up with something real underneath. It brings it to life, and allows it to stand on its own. And that's why, no matter how often I watch it, I always love every single moment of it.

To me, no matter what naysayers may go with, Seven Samurai is the perfect film.

While it may have a few nitpick flaws here and there, Kurosawa's epic tale of good men, war, and a village in need of help, is the greatest film I've ever scene, time and time again.

Alternate Perspectives:

"There is no denying the importance of this work, but the question remains: is it good because of all the good movies it inspired, or is it good strictly in its own right?" - The Flick Chick

Kurosawa's genius is in giving you a little bit of everything at just the right moments" - This Time it Will be Different

"Seven Samurai offers us flawed protagonists, some of whom are not skilled fighters, and one of whom is often drunk, belligerent, and decidedly non-heroic in his approach." -
Japan Cinema

"In some says it's a parallel underdog story and band of misfits story. For me, that is always a great start. There are so many wonderful characters and special moments with them." -
Movie Moxie

"I definitely knew watching this film that it was going to be epic and it was. I however, was disappointed, as I find you can only be when finally watching a film as over-hyped as this." -

"Sure, the movie's over three hours long, but it goes by like that due to the strong story-telling by Kurosawa. The action is gripping and the movie is beautifully shot." -
Life of a Cinephile and Bibliophile

"Kurosawa manages to make a film that at no time does the audience feel like they are sitting through a three and a half hour movie. He manages this by his use of great editing, beautiful cinematography, an engaging story, and intriguing characters." - Stop the Planet of the Apes... I want to get off

7 better thoughts:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I am soooooooo rolling my eyes at your 11/10. But if you can't give your favourite film an illogical score on your blog, where can you do it?

Alfindeol said...

It is a great movie. I've seen it twice and it's impressive how short three hours can feel when you watch a really good movie.

Castor said...

Ahaha I was wondering last night what score you were going to give it and was going to ask you if 11/10 was a possibility.

Last night was the first time I saw this movie (yes...), I was literally blown away. When I review this movie, it will get the first A+ grade I have ever handed. Truly one of the great masterpiece of the 7th art.

Andrew Robinson said...

hmmm... do I berate or do I understand. I usually like to berated and make fun, but I guess at this point I must sit back and understand. I get it, the movie kicks ass, not arguing that point. But greatest of all time (HECK NO). Well I made it all clear in my review a month ago. High and Low ftw.

BTW 11/10 = you off your ass crazy dude

thistimeitwillbedifferent said...

A good read - nice to see someone talking so fluently and enthusiasticly about their favourite film.

You might want to check the quotes bit thought because I don't remember writing the first few lines of my own - have I be reassinged someone else's quality work!?

Univarn said...

@Andrew Muhahaha, that's right! I felt so cheesy about doing it, but I just had to :)

@Alfindeol I agree, definitely one of the "shortest" 3 hour + films ever made.

@Castor Awesome, can't wait for that review :)

@Andrew I know your feelings, but that's why greatness is always a personal assessment, especially when it comes to film :)

@thistime I'm pretty sure the quotes are right, unless it's a display error. For you I just took your self-placed quote at the top of the writeup. Let me know what you see, or if there's something actually wrong! :)

thistimeitwillbedifferent said...

Ah yes, seems to be right now. It was merging mine with the Flick Chick quote.

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