Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai ★★★★

And with that, I finish my 10 for Toshiro project I undertook this year, watching his ten most popular movies I had yet to see (nine from Kurosawa and one from Mizoguchi, I'm not entirely sure why The Sword of Doom didn't make the cut but I digress). I intentionally chose to end this little project with Seven Samurai for two reasons: because its length and prestige was daunting and because it's Mifune's and Kurosawa's most famous film (with competition from Rashomon, my personal favorite of their movies together). It ended up being the perfect ending to my little Toshiro series (I started my 10 for Toshiro project as a 2020 resolution but really started working through the films in about July). It's a perfect encapsulation of what makes Mifune and Kurosawa one of the best and most enduring cinematic duos of all time. I think this is Mifune's best ever performance and definitely his most fun. The story is action-packed with exciting fight scenes but personally I preferred the first hour and a half where the samurai team is assembled. Kurosawa's attention to character makes each samurai so compelling. The ending is also fantastic, something I also tend to expect from Kurosawa, who crafts another gut punch ending in High and Low. When Shimada looks at the graves of his fellow samurai and then at the celebrating farmers, he remarks that the samurai still lost, only the farmers have won, and it is true, but this remark also highlights the kindness and selflessness of these samurai, the gallantry they brought to their powerful position. They are heroes not for winning the battle but for helping others without receiving anything in return.

A few days ago I watched a bit of a Criterion interview that Tatsuya Nakadai did a few years back and he told a funny anecdote about Seven Samurai. He was not yet a famous actor and in fact Seven Samurai was his first walk on film role. He's basically an extra. He plays a samurai in the market who walks across the screen (truly a blink and you'll miss it role) and apparently it took all day to just shoot him walking across because Kurosawa was not happy with how Nakadai held himself; Kurosawa didn't believe he looked like a samurai when he walked. After that Nakadai vowed to never work with Kurosawa again because of how embarrassed he was. He rejected the role in Yojimbo more than once before finally accepting it. The rest is history!

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