Seven Samurai (1954) - DVD Aug 29, 2009 2:59:53 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Aug 29, 2009 2:59:53 GMT -5
Buy this DVD now (the Criterion 2006 3 Disc re-release).
If you don't already own this DVD set stop reading this review, go to your favorite DVD e-tailer and click on the, "Add to shopping cart," button. Now.
OK, you're still reading the review. That's fine, you can click, "Add to shopping cart," once you're done reading it. And, chances are, you may very well want to.
Seven Samurai (or Shichinin No Samurai) is arguably one of the ten greatest films of all time. Directed by the great Akira Kurosawa, it is a 3 Hour and 26 minute movie that feels like it goes by in a quick 2 hours. Kurosawa (who also co-wrote the movie with Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni) gives the movie a pace that is never rushed, but, conversely, never drags. The pace is natural, giving the viewer a chance to get to know all of the main characters well. Character development is just one of the high points of Seven Samurai. Each of the 8 or 9 main characters is well rounded. We learn quite a bit about some of them, and the information always comes at the right time. Their personal stories are all interesting, and the characters come across as real people with real lives - even if those lives would have occurred long ago.
The plot is deceptively simple. Kurosawa had a knack for using simple plots that he fleshed out which character development and interesting turns of events. It (almost) always made for fantastically focused stories, and Seven Samurai is no exception.
Here, we have a farm village that has been ravaged by bandits in a time of civil strife and civil/feudal wars in Japan. One of the farmers overhears a group of bandits as they come across the village. As the bandits remember raiding the village not long before, they know that there won't be much to take now. But later, when the barley is harvested, there will be plenty to take. The villagers, desperate for a way to stop the bandits, decide to hire Samurai to defend them, but with no money to pay them, all they can offer the prospective Samurai is food and lodging.
The way in which Kurosawa plays out this simple plot is a joy to watch. Every single aspect of Seven Samurai works. The film is simply flawless. The script, the direction, the photography, the sets, the acting (Toshiro Mifune is, as he almost always was, brilliant, but the rest of the cast, led by Takashi Shimura as the lead Samurai is excellent as well) - it is all perfect.
Another aspect of this movie that makes it even more noteworthy are the action sequences. Seven Samurai is a drama. It is a plot and character driven drama, but the great character and plot moments lead up to several action sequences. Some long, some short. All of them are amazing to watch - especially considering that this movie was filmed in 1954! Watch carefully and you'll see some of the first (if not THE first) uses of slow motion in action sequences in this film.
Kurosawa's greatest achievement with the film could arguably be the fact that Seven Samurai does an incredible job of capturing the way that period in time in Japan must have looked and sounded. The viewer really is taken into a world long since gone.
Seven Samurai not only holds up well under repeated viewings, but it actually gets better. This is an amazing film that every serious film fan should see.
The Criterion 2006 3 Disc re-release of Seven Samurai is nearly as brilliant as the film itself. The film has been cleaned up quite a bit, and the new transfer is excellent. Along with the two discs of the film itself is a 3rd disc of supplemental, "Bonus," feaures, including multiple documentaries and interviews. Actually, there are more supplemental features on discs one and two as well (including two separate audio commentaries, and another installment of Toho Masterworks', "Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create," excellent documentary series).
While Seven Samurai is arguably one of the ten best films of all time, an argument could even be made that it is the greatest film of all time. Whether or not it wins that argument is, of course, up to you. What is clear, though, is that this is a great, great film and a testament to the talent and genius of Akira Kurosawa as a filmmaker.
Buy this DVD set now (if you don't already own it). You'll thank me later.
(At the very least make it a rental if you're concerned that a subtitled Japanese film might be hard to follow. The truth is, though, that it's really not hard to follow at all - as long as you're paying attention.)
(I'd give it a 6/5, but then that would be a little silly - even if justified.)