Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai)
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni
Repeat viewing/My DVD collection
#278 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Yes, there is a 3/12-hour film in which not one minute is wasted.
A simple farming village has been repeatedly attacked by bandits. The bandits are simply waiting for the barley harvest to strike again. Some of the villagers believe there must be a way to fight back and the village elder recommends samurai. Since the villagers can offer their saviors nothing more than room and board, they have a very hard time finding takers.
One day, the villagers spot a samurai who selflessly cuts off his symbolic top-knot in order to pose as a monk and rescue a child who has been held hostage. This is Kambei (Takashi Shimura) and he helps to recruit five other samurai who care more about adventure and camaraderie than money. The roster is filled out with Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), a wanna-be samurai who more or less cannot be shaken off.
The samurai do not receive a warm welcome in the village. One villager, Manzo, forces his daughter to dress as a boy as protection. But the ice is broken by Kikuchiyo who has a special bond with farmers. The remainder of the first half is devoted to the training of the villagers and detailed planning of strategy for the eventual battle. Certain villagers will be required to abandon three outlying houses for the good of the twenty houses in the main village.
The second half of the film is devoted to the long battle with the bandits. We see both the samurai and the villagers in moments of waiting and moments of action. Because of the long build-up, we know enough about the characters to fully appreciate their heroism and their sacrifice.
I simply love this film and seem to watch it about once a year. By now, all the principal characters seem like old friends. The plot sounds sort of simple but is packed full of telling incidents and great dialogue. The skill in film-making is astonishing and reveals Kurosawa’s prodigious talent as an editor. One of my favorite parts of the film is the fantastic score by Fumio Hayasaka. Most highly recommended.
Seven Samurai was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White and Best Costume Design, Black-and-White.