Seven Samurai (七人の侍)

Perhaps the greatest movie ever made (certainly the best action movie) showing director Akira Kurosawa at his highest level. A classic.

“Akira Kurosawa’s epic tale concerns honor and duty during a time when the old traditional order is breaking down. The film opens with master samurai Kambei (Takashi Shimura) posing as a monk to save a kidnapped farmer’s child. Impressed by his selflessness and bravery, a group of farmers begs him to defend their terrorized village from bandits. Kambei agrees, although there is no material gain or honor to be had in the endeavor. Soon he attracts a pair of followers: a young samurai named Katsushiro (Isao Kimura), who quickly becomes Kambei’s disciple, and boisterous Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), who poses as a samurai but is later revealed to be the son of a farmer. Kambei assembles four other samurais, including Kyuzo (Seiji Miyaguchi), a master swordsman, to round out the group. Together they consolidate the village’s defenses and shape the villagers into a militia, while the bandits loom menacingly nearby. Soon raids and counter-raids build to a final bloody heart-wrenching battle.”

~ Jonathan Crow

Alternate Versions:

The film’s original Japanese release version runs 207 minutes, plus intermission, which includes 4 minutes of entr’acte music against a blank screen. This is the version that has been generally shown worldwide since the 1980s, though sometimes it is shown without the intermission and entr’acte, resulting in a listed running time of 203 minutes. The initial U.S.A. release was re-titled ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and released November, 1956, with English subtitles, and ran 158 minutes. Some European releases were even further shortened to 141 minutes. Landmark Films re-released the film in the U.S. in December 1982, the first time outside Japan the film saw a major release with its running time intact (although the intermission and entr’acte were removed). Later U.S.A. releases by Avco-Embassy Pictures, Janus Films, and Films Incorporated, and by BFI in the UK, are also the full original version of the film.

Filming:

Through the creative freedom provided by the studio, Kurosawa made use of telephoto lenses, which were rare in 1954, as well as multiple cameras which allowed the action to fill the screen and place the audience right in the middle of it. “If I had filmed it in the traditional shot-by-shot method, there was no guarantee that any action could be repeated in exactly the same way twice.” He found it to be very effective and he later used it in movies that were less action-oriented. His method was to put one camera in the most orthodox shooting position, another camera for quick shots and a third camera “as a kind of guerrilla unit”. This method made for very complicated shoots, for which Kurosawa choreographed the movement of all three cameras by using diagrams.

Japanese Title: 七人の侍, Shichinin no Samurai

Other Titles: The Magnificent Seven

Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Foreign Language

Directed By: Akira Kurosawa

Written By: Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni

Country: Japan

Language: Japanese (Subtitled in English)

Release Date: April 26th, 1954 (Japan), November 19th, 1956 (USA)

Runtime: 207 minutes

Main Characters:

The seven samurai:

Toshiro Mifune as Kikuchiyo (菊千代), a humorous, mercurial and temperamental rogue who lies about being a samurai, but eventually proves his worth and resourcefulness.

Takashi Shimura as Kambei Shimada (島田勘兵衛, Shimada Kanbei), a war-weary but honourable and strategic rōnin, and the leader of the seven.

Daisuke Katō as Shichirōji (七郎次), Kambei’s old friend and former lieutenant.

Isao Kimura as Katsushirō Okamoto (岡本勝四郎, Okamoto Katsushirō), the untested son of a wealthy landowner samurai, whom Kambei reluctantly takes in as a disciple.

Minoru Chiaki as Heihachi Hayashida (林田平八, Hayashida Heihachi), an amiable though less-skilled fighter, whose charm and wit maintain his comrades’ morale in the face of adversity.

• Seiji Miyaguchi as Kyūzō (久蔵), a serious, stone-faced and supremely skilled swordsman.

Yoshio Inaba as Gorōbei Katayama (片山五郎兵衛, Katayama Gorōbei), a skilled archer, who acts as Kambei’s second-in-command and helps create the master plan for the village’s defense.

Villagers:

Yoshi Tsuchiya as Rikichi (利吉), a hotheaded villager

Bokuzen Hidari as Yohei (与平), a timid old man

Yukiko Shimazaki as Rikichi’s wife

Kamatari Fujiwara as Manzō (万造), a farmer who disguises his daughter as a man to try to protect her from the samurai

Keiko Tsushima as Shino (志乃), Manzō’s daughter

Kokuten Kōdō as Gisaku (儀作), the village patriarch, referred to as “Grandad”

Yoshio Kosugi as Mosuke, one of the farmers sent to town to hire the samurai

Others:

Shinpei Takagi as the bandit chief

Shin Otomo as the bandit second-in-command

Haruo Nakajima as a bandit scout killed by Kyuzo

Eijirō Tōno as a thief

Atsushi Watanabe as a bun seller

Jun Tatara as a coolie (a labourer)

Sachio Sakai as a coolie

Takeshi Seki as a coolie

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