|Toshiro Mifune in Seven Samurai|
Seven Samurai (1954)
d. Akira Kurosawa
Criterion Collection #2
I realized the other night that I was essentially lying to myself about having seen Seven Samurai before. I think it was just one of those movies I'd maybe caught a glimpse of on PBS one time as a teen and then never had to watch again, and then felt like I had to SAY that I'd seen it before, and just created this web of self deception and lies to avoid having to watch a three hour plus movie about Samurais in 16th century Japan.
Although I objectively knew that Seven Samurai is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, that didn't make me want to watch it. Well no more, I've have cured myself and I can now say that Seven Samurai was just as difficult to watch as I expected it to be. Luckily the Hulu Plus version included the very excellent hour long documentary, Seven Samurai: Origins and Influences which I actually watched interspersed with the movie itself to give myself little breaks during the run time.
Japanese cinema in the 1950s and 1960s had tremendous vitality, and as the documentary points out, Kurosawa set out with a self conscious aim to elevate what had previously been considered a light entertainment genre in Japanese film- similar to what John Ford accomplished with the Western in America a decade earlier. One of the talking heads in the accompanying documentary points out that Kurosawa both satisfies genre requirements, and creates a work that is impossible to talk about strictly in terms of genre- the ultimate in artistic achievement.
Seven Samurai also represents a step forward in terms of Kurosawa's film technique, with the addition of multiple cameras being shot at the same time, and the use of long distance telephoto shooting during the action sequences.
Of course, Seven Samurai was a huge international art house hit and it is another of the corner stone/foundational films without which the Criterion Collection wouldn't exist, so best to pay ones respects at least once in your life.