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Seven Samurai Movie Review

village kurosawa kambei farmers

1954 – Akira Kurosawa –

Seven Samurai is another masterpiece by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. It tells of a small farming community in sixteenth-century Japan beset with marauding bandits. Kurosawa's inspired by the American western, especially the films of John Ford, and the Seven Samurai itself inspired the classic western The Magnificent Seven. The elders of the group visit the village patriarch (Kuninori Kodo), who instructs them to hire samurai warriors to defend their village. The film takes this simple situation and develops it to evoke an incredible array of emotions.

The farmers first find Kambei (Takashi Shimura), a warrior in a nearby village who outsmarts a bandit holding a child hostage. Although the farmers have nothing to offer Kambei except food in return for his services, his sense of honor and compassion is sufficiently intrigued by their plight. He agrees to recruit some additional swords to help oppose the bandits. Kurosawa uses this sequence to particularize the samurai who join the group and also to elicit some of the suppressed emotions of the village. He seems to miss nothing in dramatizing the humanity of the situation: the village is dependent on the skill of the samurai, but they hide or disguise their daughters in fear that these roughened warriors will rape the women. The farmers know they must obey the instructions of Kambei in setting up their defenses, but those living in the outlying huts are reluctant to evacuate their homes and possessions and join the safety of the community. Some fearful farmers jeopardize the plan of defense by seeming to break ranks; others swell a bit with overconfidence in the company of the samurai. Kambei masterfully handles all these threats to the solidarity of the village. Comedy leavens the mix of emotions with the antics of Toshiro Mifune's character, a youth named Kikuchiyo who insists that he too join the group.

Kurosawa paces the film (at least in the longest, 204-minute version) so as to instill a greater sense of drama and inevitability in the moments preceding the final attack. The comic interludes, the captured spying party from the bandits, and even a growing romance prepare for the climactic assault. This battle scene plays out in a driving rainstorm with the bandits thundering through the village on horseback. The flurry of arrows, flash of swords, torrential rain, and deepening mud add to the realism and horror of the climax.

Cast: Takashi Shimura (Kambei), Toshiro Mifune (Kikuchiyo), Ko Kimura (Katsushiro), Yoshio Inaba (Gorobei), Seiji Miyaguchi (Kyuzo), Minoru Chiaki (Heihachi), Daisuke Kato (Shichiroji), Kamatari Fujiwara (Manzo), Keiko Tsushima (Shino), Kuninori Kodo (Gisaku), Yoshio Tsuchiya (Rikichi), Bokuzen Hidari (Yohei), Yoshio Kosugi (Mosuke), Keiji Sakakida (Gosaku), Jiro Kumagai (Gisaku's son), Haruko Toyama (Gisaku's daughter-in-law), Fumiko Homma (peasant woman), Ichiro Chiba (priest) Screenwriter: Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni, Akira Kurosawa Cinematographer: Asakazu Nakai Composer: Fumio Hayasaka Producer: Shojuro Motoki for Toho Running Time: 204 minutes Format: VHS, LV, DVD Awards: Venice Film Festival, 1954: Silver Prize; Academy Awards, 1954: Nominations: Art Direction/Set Decoration (B&W), Costume Design (B&W).

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