13
Oct 04

FT TOP 100 FILMS 18: THE SEVEN SAMURAI

Do You SeePost a comment • 2,030 views

FT TOP 100 FILMS
18: THE SEVEN SAMURAI

Martin Skidmore says:

Someone started a thread some time ago on ILE trying to cast considerable suspicion on people who ‘claim’ this is their favourite movie. It is my favourite movie.

It’s not my favourite because of its sophisticated and rich examination of feudal Japan, and the roles of peasantry and unemployed samurai, or ronin, an approach that looks far beneath the traditional mythologising. It’s not for the beauty and layering and artistry of the compositions, those three-levelled scenes Kurosawa sets up so neatly. It is not so that I can sneer at fans of The Magnificent Seven, its cowboy remake, which is itself a good film. It’s not because this is a great foreign art film, worthy of our respect and admiration.

I love this film so much because it moves and excites me. It wasn’t made as an art movie: it was a pretty mainstream film in Japan, a samurai thriller – it’s no more an art film than were John Ford’s or Howard Hawks’ westerns, and these are far better comparisons than Renoir, and especially than another Japanese giant such as Ozu. It’s a film of huge vigour and energy, emotional and kinetic. It has one of the biggest, most colourful and powerful and memorable performances I’ve ever seen, from Toshiro Mifune as the common-man samurai. It sets up a dangerous situation for an isolated village threatened by bandits; the villagers struggle to put together a group of warriors to protect them (I always enjoy these building-a-team sequences, and every character here gets a good introduction); the team make their plans and build their defences and train the villagers; and then the attack comes, and they face up to it in a titanic, extended action sequence, in torrential rain, the characters slipping and falling in the mud, dying in the dirt. You don’t have to give a damn about art movie values to find this an immensely thrilling and unforgettable movie.

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