Since I sure as hell don’t like posting old pictures of myself on Instagram for “Throwback Thursday,” I’m going to use this day every week as one to talk about older movies that I recommend to see for anyone who loves movies.
I’m starting this piece off with one of my favorites, director Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, one of the best films to ever come out of Japan. For anyone interested in the classics and overall great filmmaking, Kurosawa’s work is one to become familiar with, and, in my opinion, Seven Samurai is one of his best–if not the best—of Kurosawa’s films. His work has long been admired by filmmakers and he has become a strong influence for other known directors such as John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven), Sergio Leone (For a Fistful of Dollars), and George Lucas (Star Wars), among others.
The story is about a village of farmers who hire seven samurai to protect them from bandits who plan to come back and raid the village once the crops are ripe. The first half of the movie follows Kambei (Takashi Shimura), a wandering ronin who has agreed to protect the village, and his attempts to gather six more samurai to help him. This is a challenge for him, seeing as how the villagers can only offer three meals a day as payment, and not all samurai are willing to risk their lives for such little reward. The second half focuses on the samurai becoming assimilated into a farming village, where they try to teach the villagers how to defend themselves, and we are given the rundown of exactly how Kambei and the other samurai intend to protect the village.
Originally, Kurosawa had planned for there to only be six samurai, but decided it would be more interesting to add a seventh, which would end up being my favorite character in the film, the comical and impulsive show-off, Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune). When we are first introduced to him, he is following Kambei around after Kambei had just heroically saved a young boy who was taken hostage by a thief. Kikuchiyo walks around with a certain bravado, with his samurai sword over his shoulder, and it becomes obvious that he is overcompensating for something. We later on learn a bit of his emotional backstory and what drives him to be the kind of person that he is. This is just one example of the way the film really takes its time to let you get to know the characters.
Kurosawa managed to make a groundbreaking film with enough emotion, action, skilled storytelling and memorable, multi-dimensional characters to make 3½ hours only feel like 2. It doesn’t bore or drag, instead, it moves at a steady pace and engages its audience. It has a way of making you truly care about these wonderful, humanly flawed characters. It is a movie that highlights 17th century societal boundaries and pitfalls, as well as the emotional and inevitable result of an alliance between farmers and samurai, two groups of people who do not fully understand one another.
Sixty years after its release, Seven Samurai remains as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t had the chance to see this masterpiece.