Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai ★★★★★

Seen as part of the Letterboxd Season Challenge; week 3
and seen as part of the 2016 30 Countries Challenge

[2010-restored 207-minutes or so Criterion edition]

Very few movies hold even close to the acclaim of Seven Samurai, and the truth is that–in my eyes–very few of those lives up to anything close to that legacy. Akira Kurosawa‘s samurai epic does. Of course it does. The Japanese legend left behind the kind of filmography that makes my day every time I put on a new one I haven’t yet experienced, and somehow this one managed to up the already excellent experience of High and Low.

This tale is a long one, but so worth the investment. Kurosawa takes his time in setting up the premise and characters, and then he spends whatever time is left to knock it so far out of the park that he insures I’ll never forget it. Much like High and Low, or like the latest masterpiece I watched, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, this one also deals a great deal with class differences–or stations in life, if you prefer. Much of it is spent on the different expectations for the poor farmers from the village, than for the samurais the farmers hire to defend it from bandits.

Kurosawa-regular, Asakazu Nakai, return to work for him again as cinematographer, once again a successful collaboration. There are plenty of moments to still-freeze and admire, and many of the choices taken in framing and set-up pays off so well to underline the visions of the director and cinematographer. Also, another Kurosawa-regular, Toshirô Mifune, returns to underline the greatest director/actor collaboration known to man. Without the Mifune-character of Lord Kikuchiyo, Seven Samurai just wouldn’t have worked so well. He adds the kind of humor and class to a character that so easily could have been a nuisance.

I love the slow build-up and the foundation work for all the characters. In some ways, it’s the same thing that worked so well for Alfred Hitchcock in The Lady Vanishes, although that movie wasn’t nearly as deep nor successful in its way to develop the story in that way. In this one it just keeps adding layers, developing its characters, and building relations. It’s pure magic.

One of the things Kurosawa’s movie reminds us of, is that it’s not just the differences between the farmers and samurais. There’s also plenty of differences among samurais. Some have honor, some are skilled, some are well-fed and some are cheap to hire. Others are more concerned with the title, the perceived honor or the kills.

I could have spent hours writing about this amazing movie, but I won’t bother. There would simply be too much to consider, too much to praise, and too much searching for superlatives. Seven Samurai isn’t perfect, but it’s a near perfect experience. It’s definitely a masterpiece that deserves all the praise hailed upon it, and it’s one of the very best movies I’ve ever seen–if not the best…

Rewatch-probability: 5/5
(Definitely)

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