RogerBW's Blog

Seven Samurai 06 February 2024

1954 Japanese drama, dir. Akira Kurosawa, Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune; IMDb / allmovie. The villagers know the bandits are coming, so they hire fighters to defend them.

Well, the title is always given as "samurai", but that's more a caste marker than a societal role; yes, they are professional fighters, but they aren't apparently in the service of a lord, so to my understanding that would make them ronin—but at least in the version I watched this term doesn't appear in the subtitles. There's probably a linguistic subtlety here that I'm missing.

In any case, this is a fairly bare version of the story: the samurai are gathered (including the old smart one—giving us one of the earlier instances of a save-the-cat moment as he shaves his head to imitate a monk and thereby rescue a hostage—the hero-worshipping kid who hasn't seen how horrible it all is, and the wild poser who's reluctantly allowed to come along).

It never drags, even at 207 minutes, and there are some lovely visual moments; on this viewing I was particularly struck by the silhouettes of the bandits at the beginning, and the burning mill wheel. As with any action-heavy film, the moments between the action tell us who the characters are just as much as what they do in battle; and if their appearances aren't always very distinctive to my Western eye, as they're costumed and hairstyled to distinguish them from the peasants rather than ditto from eaceh other, their personalities come through.

I talk about this film further on Ribbon of Memes.

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Tags: film reviews

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 03:00pm on 06 February 2024

    An absolutely classic film which had a large influence on things that came after it, and not just The Magnificent Seven which is basically a remake.

  2. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 10:49am on 07 February 2024

    While samurai can mean a warrior, the correct name for warriors is bushi.

    The title samurai derives from saburia, which means one who serves.

    Hence seven samurai, because they serve the villagers who pay them, rather than ronin; samurai who serve no master.

    I could be wrong, but that's my gut feeling why Akira Kurosawa named the film thus.

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 12:13pm on 07 February 2024

    Thanks! Just for extra confusion, this was originally released in the US as The Magnificent Seven, but reverted to its original title when the other film of that name came out.

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