Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shichinin No Samurai (Seven Samurai) DVD (1954) / a film by Akira Kurosawa; starring Takashi Shimura & Toshiro Mifune

In sixteenth-century feudal Japan, a small village is at the mercy of marauding bandits who roam the countryside on horseback, the armed thieves basically pillaging at will against the defenseless peasants. After learning in advance of a planned raid set to take place during the peak of harvest season, the villagers decide protection is needed. The men they need are samurai warriors, specially skilled swordsmen known as Ronin distinguished for their prowess in hand-to-hand combat and bravery in battle. There's the problem of expense of course; the samurai are essentially mercenary soldiers normally well-paid for their services. But the villagers, feeling that no alternatives are left to them, travel to the local town to try and persuade some of the warriors to fight for their cause.
Initially, all the men deemed worthy promptly scoff at the villager's request and meager compensatory offer. But one warrior, Kambei, takes pity on the humble peasants, all of which will no doubt perish without the provisional aid, and soon enlists six other Ronin toward the cause. Working fast to build up the battlements of the farming compound and prepare the peasants for combat, the seven samurai foster a mutual kinship with their civilian counterparts, further fortifying the village for the trouble ahead. But as the impending raid approaches, fear and anxiety creep in as loyalties are crossed and the tenuous ties between warriors and farmers are strained to the breaking point.
In the 1950's, nothing in America or elsewhere had prepared the world for a film quite like Seven Samurai, likely the Japanese equivalent of Gone With The Wind, Casablanca or Citizen Kane (and some will argue of its superiority to these). Not only was it Kurosawa's most well-known film--as well as his most ambitious and most expensive up to that point--but it would become the most well-regarded and esteemed Japanese (and arguably Asian) film ever made. Regardless, the movie will forever be known as a milestone in motion picture history, a beautific film of powerful meaning, cinematic richness, and lasting significance (Steve McQueen in The Magnificent Seven was the successful American remake). One thing is incontestably certain, world cinema has never been the same since its breathtaking debut. (DVD SEVEN)

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