Seven Samurai (1954)

Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai)seven samurai poster
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
Written by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Hideo Oguni
1954/USA
Toho Company
Repeat viewing/My DVD collection
#278 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Gisaku: Find hungry samurai.

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.

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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.

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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.

Trailer

8 thoughts on “Seven Samurai (1954)

  1. A true classic. As much as I love Kurosawa in general and as much as I love Kumonosu Jo, it’s hard for me to say that this isn’t his most finely crafted film. And you’re right, there’s not a moment wasted in this. Every frame of it is a masterpiece. Two hundred years from now, people are still going to be talking about this as one of the greatest films in the history of film.

    • It is as if Kurosawa was determined to get every single aspect as perfect as it could be. We are so lucky that his definition of perfection included entertaining his audience.

  2. This is a great movie. About 1990, I remember taking the bus (an hour and a half ride in Los Angeles traffic before the subway) downtown to see this at the Little Tokyo theater. I was the only person in the theater! It was me and a huge screen and three or four hundred empty seats!
    So if you include walking to the bus stop, waiting for the bus, travel time and the length of the movie, that was more than eight hours out of a Sunday afternoon and early evening just to see The Seven Samurai. As I hadn’t seen it before, I was hoping it would live up to its reputation.
    It did. It’s still one of my favorite movies. As it’s almost four hours long, I don’t watch it that often, but I have seen it two or three time since then. There aren’t a lot of four-hour movies that I’ve seen three or four times. (Andrei Rublev!)
    Yeah. It’s quite an achievement. It sure doesn’t seem like four hours!
    I prefer Yojimbo by a hair. (Come on! It’s Yojimbo!) But The Seven Samurai still blows me away.

    • I love Yojimbo too but I’ll stick with Seven Samurai. How wonderful to see it on a big screen! I usually start a viewing thinking I will break up the two parts over a couple of days and then wind up watching straight through.

  3. I still have not entirely recovered from my last viewing. This is a great movie in every sense of the word. And in a magnificent year like 1954 I think was the movie of the year. Crazy, actually, when you think of what 1954 did offer.

  4. …………and not a single bit of wirework or CGI in sight praise be.

    Hey, you’re slipping, this is a Japanese movie that I’ve heard of, watched even.

    On that short list (for me anyway) of movies that make you see them multiple times.

    • Modern film makers think they know everything, but they could learn so much. Here is an action movie that makes you feel every bit of the action while at the same time giving you characters you can care about.

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