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View Full Version : A little history report I did on The Seven Samurai



HorseradishTree
04-29-2004, 06:58 PM
Hope you guys like it. It had to be short, but I managed to fit some ideas in. I'd love feedback on it.

If one were to inquire a casual film buff about Akira Kurosawa, he or she would immediately receive a bombardment of appraisal and recommendation for who is arguably the most influential filmmaker of past and present. His films have set standards for several varied genres and concepts including action, surrealism, and drama. His true masterpiece, Shichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai), is a culmination of many of these notions, and, back in 1954, it paved the way for a new generation of films and changed the way cinema was viewed forever.

Within all this, Kurosawa managed to make a film that portrayed the period to great perfection. The historical accuracy within it makes it also a great movie to watch if one wishes to experience what things were like.

The film takes place in Japan at a time when samurai are scattered and most have pursued the path of ronin. The country is split up into warring regions controlled by power mongering daimyos. They are so caught up in their own thirst for more land that they do not heed attention to the bandits swarming around the area and preying on the weaker folk. The picture utilizes these facts and creates a fascinating story.

In the movie, a small farming community finds itself in a predicament. A group of bandits is going to invade their tiny town once their crops are fully-grown. This poses a problem, and the feeble farmers must go searching for heroes to assist them in defending their village. Another dilemma that they have to face is that they have no method of payment besides room and board. Even in all of this, seven samurai arise to the occasion for different reasons that they hold to their own.

While the farmers are gracious, it is interesting to investigate their deep-down positions with each the samurai, and vice-versa, which happen to potentially be the mannerisms felt toward each other in real times past. Since these ďones who serveĒ are more or less not serving anymore, the commoners donít feel in a position to hold them in as high regard as they used to, since they arenít perpetually protecting them. The samurai, sadly, only know how to serve, so they have no choice but to defend the ungrateful cultivators.

This in itself explains the bushido, or way of the samurai. Their only way is to serve, and to deny that would be dishonorable. Without out honor, they are soulless hosts. A samurai must uphold his honor, even if that means protecting unappreciative peasants from doom. Even though they question their reasoning throughout the film, their upbringings null these thoughts and allow them to continue their work with body and soul in overdrive. This also leads on to another concept within the film: the ever-presence of Zen Buddhism. The fact that these samurai are able to suppress their desires simply defines Zen.
Zen investigates the world of suffering as produced by desire. If one were to create a paradoxical situation inside oneís head, one could enter a meditative state in which outside oneís mind, things are irrelevant. The leader of the band of samurai, Kambei Shimada, calms himself by rubbing his newly bald head. He seems to do this as a way to calm himself and think things over. Another of the samurai, Kyuzo, has fine-tuned his skills to such perfection that he is, in a way, enlightened, and is not affected by desires and wantings. Interestingly enough, another samurai is the other extreme in this range. Katsushiro Otamoto is young and naÔve, and happens to fall for a local girl almost immediately. This leads to strife and turmoil among the samurai and peasants alike. Metaphorically, the film touches on the aspects of the religion.

Of course, the whole film is not all drama and tragedy. There are several ways that the film provides humor as well. Kikuchiyo, one of the seven samurai, is a ruffian of sorts, and while he manages to have his beautiful moments, he also gets by generating comic relief to the picture as well. For example, he trudges around the samuraisí room, totally drunk, attempting to fabricate reason throughout his own confusion and chaos, happily in a very comedic way. He also manages to humiliate the peasants by creating a false alarm and watching them flock to him in fear. This manages to release some tension within the film.

This picture requires a necessary viewing by every man, woman, and child. Once a child is born, they should immediately be subjected to this film. Otherwise, severe punishment should ensue.

oscar jubis
05-04-2004, 12:25 AM
To preface, I think it's great you're pushing a 50 year-old, b&w subtitled film. Keep 'em coming, Tree!

Originally posted by HorseradishTree
I'd love feedback on it.
You asked for it.

arguably the most influential filmmaker of past and present

Smart of you to use the qualifier "arguably". A lot has been written about K's influence on American commercial cinema (specifically Star Wars), but watching his films what strikes me is how much he was influenced by Ford and Eisenstein. I would argue that several filmmakers such as Godard, Mizoguchi, Kubrick and Resnais have had more of an influence on the medium than Kurosawa. Incidentally, I propose that Kenji Mizoguchi will eventually be recognized in the West as Japan's greatest director.

His films have set standards for several varied genres and concepts including action, surrealism, and drama.

Kurosawa and Surrealism don't seem to go together. Enlighten me.

His true masterpiece, Shichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai)

Kurosawa directed several masterpieces (including 7 Samurai). I prefer Rashomon and Ikiru. Both had a greater emotional impact on me than The Seven Samurai. Moreover, the messages inherent in these films seem to me more resonant in our present circumstances than the values expressed in Seven Samurai. Of course, this is a very personal opinion.

While the farmers are gracious, it is interesting to investigate their deep-down positions with each the samurai, and vice-versa, which happen to potentially be the mannerisms felt toward each other in real times past.

Your writing is very good but this sentence needs some work.

HorseradishTree
05-04-2004, 08:14 PM
Kurosawa and Surrealism don't seem to go together. Enlighten me.

Well, I imagined Dreams to have several surrealistic characteristics to it. I did research on the topic and several of his vignettes fit the profile, possibly not in the way you would expect.

side note: Did you know that the crowded room scene in the Marx Brother's Night at the Opera is considered surrealistic as well? It's all pretty interesting stuff.


Kurosawa directed several masterpieces (including 7 Samurai). I prefer Rashomon and Ikiru. Both had a greater emotional impact on me than The Seven Samurai. Moreover, the messages inherent in these films seem to me more resonant in our present circumstances than the values expressed in Seven Samurai. Of course, this is a very personal opinion.

Ok, very good point. How about "his most praised and popular masterpiece?" Personally, Throne of Blood is my favorite of his. Thanks for pointing that out.


Your writing is very good but this sentence needs some work.

Heh, I laughed out loud when I looked at that sentence again. It sure contains a message if you examine it closely, though. I'll work on it.

Johann
05-05-2004, 02:15 AM
Seven Samurai is a masterpiece, no question, but you guys haven't mentioned the major reason this film succeeds: Toshiro Mifune. Tree mentions his drunken scene, but there are far better scenes displaying his temperament. He IS a samurai in this movie. No one in film history (not even Tom Cruise ha ha ha) made me believe that they were actually a samurai.

I studied this film once by concentrating on Mifune and I realized that he was just as alchemical as Kurosawa in terms of movie magic. You can also see the supporting actors feeding off Mifune's intensity.

One of the mysteries of life: I've run into many many people who have seen Seven Samurai and they love it, but they won't (or just haven't) seen any other Kurosawa films. Why is this? You would think you'd have an insatiable appetite for the emperor's work. But no, they're content to say they've seen Shichinin. That seems to be enough for the "cool movie fan" tag.

HorseradishTree
05-05-2004, 06:31 PM
I actually prefer Mifune's performance in Yojimbo but I'm not undermining his superb skills as Kikuchiyo. Yes, he is an incredibly powerful character, as are all of the samurai in their own ways, and his end is one of the most powerful moments I've ever witnessed in cinema.

Chris Knipp
05-16-2004, 02:53 PM
While you're at it on actors important in Kurosawa, you better not forget Takeshi Shimura

or Machiko Kyo.

You also might consider that Kurosawa, for better or worse, has become more famous in the West than Mizoguchi or Ozu, and this isn't likely to change.

oscar jubis
05-17-2004, 02:35 AM
Kenji Mizoguchi directed over 80 films, half of them silents irretrievably lost. About a dozen of his sound films were released on highly perishable vhs in the early nineties. Remaining playable copies are highly prized in spite of poor quality. Over the next decade, these masterpieces will be restored and release on dvd. This is beginning to occur in Europe and the UK, where Life of Oharu and Lady of Musashino are now available with nice english subs.
I have absolute confidence that North American film buffs would fall in love with Ugetsu, Sansho The Bailiff and Empress Yang Kwei Fei. Give 'em half a chance. Mizoguchi will become more popular here.

Good point about Machiko Kyo and Takashi Shimura. Kyo appears in Mizoguchi's Ugetsu, Loyal 47 Ronin, Empress Yang, and Street of Shame. Shimura is featured in Loyal 47, Life of Oharu and Osaka Elegy.

Chris Knipp
05-17-2004, 03:06 AM
SHIMURA stars in Kurosawa's great Seven Samurai and immortal Ikiru.

I didn't say Kurosawa was more popular; I said he was more famous than Mizoguchi or Ozu. That probably isn't very likely to change. But if Mizoguchi's work becomes more available, that may benefit the Japanese as much as us. They, after all, understand it better than we do.