|Seven Samurai - 3 Disc Remastered Edition (Criterion Collection Spine # 2)
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Studio: Image Entertainment Release Date: 09/05/2006
Hailed as the greatest film in the history of Japanese cinema, Seven Samurai is director Akira Kurosawa's undisputed masterpiece. Arguably the greatest of all jidai-gecki (or historical swordplay films), 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 during the civil unrest of 16th-century Japan, as the cowering residents of a small farming village are seeking protection against seasonal attacks by a band of marauding bandits. Offering mere handfuls of rice as payment, they hire seven unemployed "ronin" (masterless samurai), including a boastful swordsman (Toshiro Mifune) who is actually a peasant farmer's son, desperately seeking glory, acceptance, and revenge against those who destroyed his family. Led by the calmly strategic Kambei (Takashi Shimura, star of Kurosawa's previous classic, Ikiru), the samurai form mutual bonds of honor and respect, but remain distant from the villagers, knowing that their assignment may prove to be fatal.
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 complementary critical perspectives. 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 collaboration 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 illustrated 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 Toshiro 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)
- "Japan's Towering Achievement"
This film arguably Kurosawa's greatest film. This particular version allows us to see his masterpiece in unprecedented clarity. The new translation provides the audience a greater emotional understanding of the plot.
The humor and action are timeless entertainment. I was honestly expecting to become bored given the extremely lengthy presentation, but not a scene is wasted. It tells a fairly simple story but develops each character meticulously. You will remember scenes from this movie for weeks to come and will be compelled to watch it again and again.
The documentaries are excellent additions. One provides information about early Japanese films and the other gives us an entertaining glimpse into what it was like to shoot Seven Samurai. There is a very dull interview with Kurosawa that should be skipped by all except the most avid of Kurosawa fans.
I also feel bizarrely inclined to mention the beautiful packaging. The fold-out DVD box is adorned with iconic scenes from the film. The color scheme is pleasant. The booklet that comes with it also looks very artsy. It comes with information to teach us about the creators of the film and essays from various movie buffs to provide different perspectives about the importance of the film.
All in all, a fantastic package that should not be missed by anyone who considers themselves a movie fan. As trailers of the movie gloated without restraint, it might be "Japan's Towering Achievement" in film. 5/5...more info
- A definitive edition of a definitive movie
For purposes of this review, I'm going to assume you know the plot of "Seven Samurai" and its place as an esteemed film (do a little reading up on it if you don't). I will focus on the product itself.
This is one of those rare "remastered editions" that is actually worth the buy. The movie itself is incredibly crisp and has all the "lost" footage, allowing the viewer to see the entire movie in a detail not seen since its theatrical release. The clarity, however, never detracts from the movie itself - it takes multiple viewing the fully grasp the content of each shot, including many details that were too small to notice in the VHS release.
The subtitles are also crisp and clean, another vast improvement over the VHS. As another review already stated, the movie is only subtitled, not dubbed, so if you have poor eyesight keep that in mind.
The movie itself is split neatly at the intermission (which has been left intact at the end of disc one) into a pair of DVDs, with a third disc of special features. There are two excellent bonus commentaries by film scholars - one solely by Michael Jeck, the other by four scholars (one at a time, each getting 25% of the movie), including Joan Mellen (who wrote the book - literally - on "Seven Samurai"). These commentaries are very insightful and discuss both thematic and theatrical elements of the movie.
There is also a small booklet included that has various commentaries by film critics and a small piece by Toshiro Mifune. It's short but a nice little extra.
If you like "Seven Samurai," this is the edition you want, hands down....more info
- Seven Samurai - Especially good for those understanding Japanese
Seven Samurai is a truly great movie. Unfortunately, I am legally blind and am unable to read the English subtitles. If only there could have been an English-speaking version.
I'm very disappointed after paying the stiff price and receiving what I could barely understand by watching it but without any effective translation on what waws being said.
Unhappy Review...more info
7 samurai is probably the best film of all time. but this is not the version to get. it has been split up into 2 discs instead of being on 1 disc like the other release. this really ruins the experience. also, the grainy quality of the pre-restoration version added character and pathos. it looks too slick now. another huge problem is the low - resolution, jagged subtitles. couldn't they have gotten something better? its like looking at an ancient computer font and causes extreme eyestrain and headaches. Also, this film really should be dubbed into English. I want to focus on Kurosawa's masterful imagery but instead I find myself constantly staring at the ghastly subtitles. You can turn them off but then you cant follow the story, so really this should be dubbed. The extras here are mostly throw-aways and not worth the extra money. The best of them is michael jeck's commentary but that was on the older criterion release as well. i recommend getting that version instead as its cheaper and better....more info
- Truly inspirational
This earnestly is one of the finest achievements of cinema, particularly of it's time. Though hailed as only the third greatest piece of Japanese cinema of it's year, it has easily outlasted it's two predecessors. This movie is basically flawless. Multi-layered and symbolic, there is no wasted film in the entire movie. Every shot has depth and the storyline is fascinating.
It's storyline has been ripped off and parodied numerous times, from The Magnificant Seven, to the often boring futuristic anime of the same name, to video games, This is character development and using the cinema as a medium to portray statements at it's finest.
No matter how many times you watch it, you WILL notice something different, and noting how revolutionary it was at the time, it is truly mindblowing. Kurosawa has always been a master, but this is truly his masterpiece, and watching the master at work is atrue pleasure.
The acting is also sensational, particularly Toshiro Mifune (One of my favorite actors period) and Seiji Miyaguchi who until this movie has never touched a sword before. Still, every actor down to the most insignificant extra adds depth to the world of Seven Samurai. The script is fantastic, and no line is wasted in this three and a half hour film.
The class statements are just as relevant today as the time it was based in, and you really see see the main three classes (peasent, nandit, and samurai) as human. You even understand the plight of the bandits before the film is over. There is no black and white only gray circumstances, and ultimately that's what the movie is about more than anything.
There truly cannot be enough good things to say about such an epic masterpiece, and it will be continued to be revered in the future....more info
- This Movie Will Change Your Life and The World
This is the story of seven samurai who stood up for the forsaken and abandoned souls of society. They risked their lives for these peasants against a band of bandits. They didn't fight for money, glory, or legacy. They fought because it was the right thing to do...
This is the masterpiece that all epics are measured by.
- A Towering Classic Desecrated by Translator Linda Hoagland
For discriminating film fans, I strongly recommend seeking out older, more nimble translations of Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai," to compare against this latest version by Criterion Collection.
Unfortunately, Linda Hoagland's English translation in this version does a grave disservice to viewers and to the filmmakers who created this cinematic masterwork. Throughout the film, Hoagland's translation manages to be at near complete odds with the tone, nuance, subtle yet bracing eloquence, even humor, of Kurosawa's epic drama. (Incredibly, she even makes English sound horrible. She has no sense of cadence, absolutely NO EAR FOR ANY LANGUAGE.)
She also demonstrates a woeful inability to grasp and therefore convey the essence of the film's characters. Simply horrible. As a result, the translated words and expressions of the film's characters seem to be from an altogether different time and culture than the one depicted by Kurosawa and his collaborators, with the characters feeling disembodied and alienated from themselves, each other, and the film itself. This is truly regrettable, because it leaves first-time viewers, especially, with misimpressions of the film on so many levels.
Absent any lingual finesse, Hoagland's translation assumes such gross and indelicate liberties with the dialog, period setting, culture, and characterizations that it grates miserably against the very beauty and power and heart and spirit of this magnificent film -- quite an ignominious feat. It also evidences the power of language in cinema, but in the worst way. One winces to think that Kurosawa-san, et al, are turning in their graves at Hoagland's single-handed insult.
By extension, Hoagland's translation also undermines the greater emotional impact and experience of the film in its larger import as allegory. In doing so, she undercuts the filmmakers' attempt to convey a particular, imaginative vision of the Japanese people's experience of their history, culture, and struggle for individual and national identity amid the rapid onset of changes and complexities in the 20th century, relative to the country's feudal and rural past.
For this, Hoagland and Criterion Collection should be held accountable for this expediently crass, "contemporary" translation. How was such unmitigated butchery of this truly phenomenal film allowed to happen? To bonafide cineastes, this is unbelievable... maddening... and yet more evidence of the continually spiraling dive in U.S. standards of quality and fidelity to cinema as cultural document and art form. In this light, Ms. Hoagland's translation in this Criterion Collection version merits nothing but disdain.
Despite the technical quality of this print, any purchase of this DVD only encourages more of the same abysmal standards. The degree to which Hoagland's translation ruins the film, at least for some of us, far outweighs ANY negligible shortcoming in the print of previous versions. Indeed, compared to the absolutely horrid effect of her translation, any print differences are secondary and nearly indistinguishable in terms of the film's emotional and artistic impact -- which is absolutely inextricable from the language.
It's the MEANING of the film's narrative that most matters. And, for those of us who know of what we are speaking and who respect the poetry of language and culture, the effect of Hoagland's interference with that experience is analogous to razor blades across the eye (no insult to Bunuel intended), or acid thrown on bare skin. Hers is a most dubious achievement: "outdoing" the masterful hand of Kurosawa, et al, with one swipe of a translation. (I believe Ms. Hoagland is also responsible for the English translation of a "Cowboy Pictures" distribution/DVD of this film, from several years ago, wherein she also evidenced her execrable ineptitude at some of the most critical, moving moments of the film, but not nearly as egregiously as here.)
Hopefully, however, the rich and insightful work of authentically capable, intellectually astute, and keenly sensitive scholars, translators, and critics (from around the globe) will, in time, come to prevail over the rampant distortions and faux "authority" of those persons undeserving of the task.
At present, there is, for example, the brilliant auteur director Kitano Takeshi -- who is too independent (he owns his own film production company), smart, savvy (and still alive) to allow his work to become the botched object of abject English translation. Or, so, one would hope....more info
- You don't know the meaning of EPIC or cinematic ART until you watch a film like this one...
You've watched films like The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix and you think they are some of the most brilliant, epic and artistic films you might have seen. But I have a question to ask you, have you seen Seven Samurai?
If you haven't, then you have yet to know the true meanings of EPIC or cinema ART. Do yourself a favor and watch this breath-taking film! The story is rather simple - a village becomes threatened by a swarm of Bandits and the farmers decide to hire Samurai to help defend their village as the Bandits begin their assault. But the depth of the film, is astonishing! What then becomes in the first hour, a great structure of story and character building, when finally the remaining hour is filled with breath-taking action sequences that you've never quite seen before in a movie. Not to mention the fantastic music. This is a movie I can watch over and over, because this is a great example of a REAL movie!
Hands-down one of the greatest films ever made. A true film about honor, bravery and sacrifice....more info
- Surprising Charm In Masterful Epic
"Charming" is perhaps the last adjective one would expect to hear in connection with an old black-and-white samurai movie. But at every turn, from Gorobei's jesting response to the initial test set for him by Kambei, to Kambei's joking at the expense of the freshly de-flowered Katsushiro before the final battle, this movie shows an easy, earthy, sense of humor. This care, this willingness to psychologize each character, saves this movie from the pitfalls of most "battle epics."
Yet, Kurosawa's technique is not less exalted in the action sequences. If you are familiar with "Ran", or "Throne of Blood," you are aware that he is the master of the big, wide-screen shot of massed cavalry advances. In "Ran," for instance, the battles outside of Hidetora's castle, with the washes of orange and pink, are masterful, painterly filmmaking.
Here, the battle scenes are of a more claustrophobic nature, and all the more dramatic, as a result. The mounted bandits are shown vying at close quarters with the farmer pikemen in a grisly kaleidoscope of straining arms, tendons, hooves, spears, swords. For those who would criticize the action sequences of "Seven Samurai," the following question is in order: which puts more of a demand on the imaginations -- the "suspension of disbelief" -- of its viewers? A slick, cartoony CGI combat sequence (cf, "Star Wars," "The Matrix", "The Hulk"), or sharp-focus photography of actual stuntmen simulating 16th-century combat?
Ultimately, Kurosawa is able to strike a perfect balance between breadth of vision, and sharpness of focus. In doing so, he creates a full, but sharply-detailed universe for the action to unfold in. ...more info
- The Peasant and the Sword
Words fail to praise the action-packed period film that Akira Kurosawa created in 1954 Japan. Two years after the allies released the Japanese from occupation, Kurosawa directed the best film ever, in my opinion, for those that desire evil to be overthrown and justice to prevail. The plight of the peasants is graphically detailed in breath-taking scenes of beauty and poise. Coming to their aid is the most virtuous samurai in film history, ready at a moment to battle the bandits that would rob, rape, and murder the helpless peasantry. The camera angles and positioning are excellent beyond belief, the costumes are real, and the mud is thick for the final battle scene. Any movie fan that doesn't have the recent Criterion Collection Seven Samurai is missing out on a classic. Honor, loyalty, skill, and faith come alive on the screen in 17th century Japan. ...more info
Some films do get better with repeated viewings. Akira Kurosawa's 1954 black and white film Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) is one of them. It was well deserving of winning the 1954 Venice Film Festival's Silver Lion, as well as the two Academy awards it won for Best Art/Set Decoration and Best Costume Design. On a first view it's simply a great action film, but with subsequent viewings the finer points of characterization come through in each moment, seeping into the mind subliminally and purposefully. The story, at nearly three and a half hours in length- including a five minute intermission, is never weighted down with fat, as all of the many subplots bear fruit- so unlike most films made in Hollywood today. It became an international sensation, and the highest grossing Japanese film of its day.
Yes, there are remnants of the stale samurai genre, such as the wise man Kambei Shimada (Takashi Shimura), and the `boy on the verge of manhood' in Katsushiro Okamoto (Isao `Ko' Kimura), and his romance with farmer Manzo's daughter Shino, but the central human dilemma of the 16th Century farmers who are helpless against the depredations of the bandits, who abound during the civil wars of the era, raises the film above mere clich¨¦s. We only see the bandits at the beginning and end of the film. There are about two hours where the meat of the tale takes place, and not a bandit is in sight. How many films do away with their bad guys for so long? How many could afford to? Since we do not know any of the bandits' names, they are more like a singular character, or a sheer force of nature. Why do they keep coming to attack the villagers, even as their forces are successively thinned with each failed raid? They must realize that the once helpless villagers have hired defenders? There is no Darth Vader among the bandits, despite George Lucas's latter-day attempts to cite this film as an influence for his banal and downright puerile Star Wars saga. We also learn that the villagers are neither as poor nor innocent as they portray. There are murderers amongst them, who have killed samurai before. They also seek to lowball and underpay their protectors.... It is a truism that almost all great directors have at least one great collaborator. With Ingmar Bergman it was his cinematographer Sven Nykvist. With Federico Fellini it was his musical scorer, Nino Rota. But with Kurosawa it's not only great stars like Mifune and Shimura, but his co-writers, Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni- part of a rotating staff of writers that muted some of Kurosawa's own admitted over the top tendencies in storytelling, and brought the tale down to a human level. Without them the film may have been little more than a greatly stylized genre film, rather than a great film, period.
The cinematography Asakazu Nakai, and score by Fumio Hayasaka are also very good, although this is an actor-driven vehicle. Nakai's deep focus techniques- at the time cutting edge, are every bit as good as those in Citizen Kane. Especially, look at the complexity of the many crowd scenes, where many little stories play out as we watch the foregrounded action of the samurai. Things like this are only gotten on repeated viewings, and with my second viewing I picked up much more than on a first glance, especially while not having to read the subtitles. And look at how jungle twigs seem to leap out at the viewer, as does Mifune's huge phallic sword as he slings it over his shoulder. The whole film was shot in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, so one wonders what Kurosawa would have done with this film in widescreen.
There's no doubt that Seven Samurai is a great film, and with its length and complexity it will only grow in my estimation as I view it more and more over the years. Of that I'm sure. But, that said, I do not think that it is Kurosawa's best film. I'd still lean toward Ikiru for that honor- for it's simply the more deeply human tale, and Shimura is even better in his role as Watanabe the doomed bureaucrat than as Kambei the indefatigable warrior. However, this is the granddaddy of all great action films, from Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch to even James Cameron's films like Aliens or The Terminator series, as well as a great bildungsroman for Katsushiro. It also struck me, as the film opens to drumbeats, how reminiscent this film's opening is to that of my beloved Godzilla- a film that was released in the same year, with the footfalls of the monster dominating a black screen filled with credits. While Godzilla is nowhere in a league to Seven Samurai as a film, it is the second most influential Japanese film of all time. That both rely on such primal sounds in their openings makes one wonder if there's a connection.
Yet, the thing that Seven Samurai has that few other films do is its incredibly detailed richness. From the bad skull caps the male characters wear, to the ambush tests Kambei devises to recruit his cohorts, to the old woman who goes to kill a hobbled bandit with a farm instrument- to avenge her son's death, and many others; all of these and more make repeated viewing a necessity to truly appreciate this film, for all of these things are non-essential to the basic plot, even as they heighten the realism of this unreal tale. Let me end by stating that Seven Samurai is every bit as good, and great, as its greatest champions claim, and I ask you, how rare a thing is that?
- Truly amazing
Nothing less than incredible. My fiancee and I loved every minute. Definitely worth sitting down for the whole 3 1/2 hours of this movie....more info
- THE Masterpiece
Tension in all aspects best illustrates "The Seven" Warriors without masters who sell out to farmers. Even sexual tension grips the youngest who survives the battle, only to surrender to the true winners. The American rip-off does not hold a candle to the actors, action, or message. Hollywood still can not get it perfect as "The Seven" is perfection and greatness. Swords beaten into plows!...more info
- Don't Stop Here
Remarkable film. Just don't forget that there's more Kurosawa to be had. Amazon has a Yojimbo & Sanjuro set for sale also that's absolutely stunning. The other 450 reviewers have pretty much said all that can be said about a movie. This is just a friendly reminder to keep exploring....more info
- Often imitated but the original is still the best
Hollywood remade the 7 Samurai and called it the Magnificent 7. This was also a good film but the original is still the best. One can learn a lot about Japanese culture by watching it. The villagers also go to the village elder for advice. The hired Samurai village protectors count the number of bandits and assume that they have to fight every last one. They know that none of them will run away, even if the face certain defeat. I guess there is even honor amongst thieves. The love story only constitutes a few scenes, but the class differences between a farmer girl and a samurai determine the end result. Another lesson, love doesn't conquer all and in fact such a union will result in tragedy and unhappiness. Of course the craftsmenship of the film itself is stellar. ...more info
- Brilliant on multiple levels
Any brief review of an incredible movie experience risks, at best, sounding trite; or, like a fan's enthusiastic ravings, unintelligible to the individual not familiar with Japanese culture and history, Japanese cinema, the Samurai film genre, the actors (especially Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura), and Akira Kurosawa's direction. I can only suggest reading about these topics first if you are a total novice (or comparatively so), then buy this DVD edition, then read the booklet & essays, then watch the movie and get blown away. If you have any qualms about the running time, don't give it another moment's thought. Not one minute is wasted, like reading a great book you can't put down....more info
- "What's the use of worrying about your beard when your head's about to be taken?"
"Seven samurai" (1954) is arguably Akira Kurosawa's best film, and my favourite of those made by that wonderful Japanese director. The plot of this movie is simple enough, but it is developed in a way that enriches it, by adding depth to the characters and making the spectator realize that there is more to them than meets the eye. The rigid cast division that characterized 16th century Japan is shown, and the whole period is brought to life thanks to outstanding cinematography and excellent acting.
The story begins when the inhabitants of a very small rural village start discussing what to do about the bandits that attack them from time to time, taking everything of value with them. The farmers have very few resources and hardly any food left, but need to find a solution to their urgent problem or face certain death. An old and wise man proposes an unorthodox idea: to hire wandering samurai in very dire straits to defend the village, paying them only with food.
The others farmers deem that suggestion outlandish but, having no other options, decide to give it a try. That is the point when we accompany them in their quest for salvation to a nearby town, where they look for samurai willing to work for almost nothing. Will they get hold of some? And what kind of people will the farmers be able to tempt with such poor offer?
The answers to those questions, brought to life thanks to Kurosawa's mastery of the silver screen, end up giving us the opportunity to watch one of those very few movies that truly deserve to be called "classics". Highly recommended...
- One of the Ten Best Films of All Time! One of the best DVD Releases Ever!
Buy this DVD now (the Criterion 2006 3 Disc re-release).
If you don't already own this set stop reading this review 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 you will 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 a 2 hour movie. Kurosawa (who also co-wrote the movie with Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni) gives the movie a pace that is never rushed, but never drags. The pace is natural, giving the viewer a chance to get to know all of the main characters very 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, and it always made for a fantastically focused story.
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 they 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 an 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 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), the sets - 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 driven 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.
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," 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 up to you, but it is clearly 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.
(Other highly recommended Kurosawa films include Stray Dog, Rashomon, Ikiru, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, High and Low, The Bad Sleep Well, and Ran - and that's just for starters!)
- A Masterpiece of action movie for everyone
After more than 50 years that this groundbreaking film was made, there is hardly anything to add. Here is my recommendation in gist:
A MUST for an action movie. Without any special effect the photography is a master work and delightful to watch.
Little long... you may find initial part little slow. But it opens the plot - which is very simple - in a lucid manner.
Countless movie has been made taking inspiration and material from this movie. An all time great work.
This is a tremendous presentation package of one of the seminal works of the genre and those which followed (i.e., The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen (a weak cousin), etc.
I highly recommend it for the collector....more info