Celebrating Great Films

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai#10 at time of writing.

The trouble with watching classic films is that they were often so influential that you feel like you've seen it all before. So when I sat down to watch this three-hour epic I expected to see a predictable story about brave, powerful and noble samurai warriors conquering all.


I was very surprised to see the samurai portrayed as poor, cowardly, desperate mercenaries. There are no heroes in this film.

In sixteenth century Japan a villager overhears a notorious gang of bandits plotting to ransack the village and steal all their grain. The village elder decides that they must try to hire samurai to defend themselves, but they have no money. It turns out that most of the samurai are so pathetic and desperate that they will work for three square meals a day - although the villagers can barely even afford that.

All this gives rise to personal battles of hope and pride and guilt, not to mention many wonderfully comic exchanges, while the villagers and the samurai prepare for the final showdown.

Many of Akira Kurosawa's films were remade into classic Westerns - in this case, The Magnificent Seven. I don't much like Westerns as a rule, but I liked this.

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