Thursday, December 28, 2006

Shichinin no samurai (Seven Samurai, Akira Kurosawa, 1954)

From Forum with No Name:

Sitting down to a three hour-plus Japanese film with a ten and six year old is actually not impossible, particularly when said film is directed by Akira Kurosawa.

They loved it, of course. They loved the introduction of Kambei (Takashi Shimura) shaving his head in preparation for his daring rescue of the child (this may have been the point where they really got hooked, I think); they loved the antics of Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune, their hands-down favorite); they even loved Katsushiro (Isao Kimura) and his relative cluelessness.

They loved it that through maps, a quick reconaissance tour, and careful organization of shots (cut together so that the movement from one location to another or vice versa is always consistent) they come to know the layout of the entire village--the field of conflict, in effect. They loved it that the action sequences are clear and coherent (my six-year-old walked out of The Descent because, as he put it "they keep cutting and shaking the camera, and I'm getting dizzy"). They love it that Kurosawa as much as was possible didn't cheat--one bandit (as I pointed out) was really struck in the chest by an arrow (shot by an expert archer into a wooden plank the actor wore under his armor (Kurosawa wouldn't go so far as to actually kill his actors, I had to explain)); Kyuzo really swings his sword with masterful skill (a skill all the more impressive since (I pointed out to their amazement) before this film the actor, Seiji Miyaguchi, had never picked up a sword in his life).

It was a pleasure watching two kids experiencing the pleasure of watching a master filmmaker at his best. They laughed when he wanted them to laugh, oohed when he wanted them to ooh, sat sombre when he wanted to show them something sombre. When the movie was finished, they shook their heads; they couldn't believe they just saw a three-hour Japanese film.


Anonymous said...

Can you confirm he does shoot arrows at his actors? I remember hearing that in the ocmmentary of the LaserDisc version of 7 Samurai.
However, I can swear that there were some arrows that were running on wires in some scenes. Again, I'll have to check to be sure.
I don't remember who said that because Kurosawa shot arrows at Mifune in Throne of Blood, relations between the two were very strained (I think it was you). They still did movies together afterwards, amazingly enough.
I don't think their relationship is as insane as Klaus Kinski and Werner Herzog, though? Kinski made some audacious claims in his biography (Teddy Co told me. It's his copy.) Herzog sort of made light of it in a recent interview. The truth, probably, is in-between.

Noel Vera said...

Hi, Joel.

Yeah, it's on the Seven Samurai commentary that they shot real arrows in that one shot. I suspect wires are used in long shots, or for shots where the actors are moving.

Throne of Blood--I believe I read that in Donald Richie's book. I don't have a copy of it anymore, though...

I read Kinski's book. It's terrific. Yes, he mentions Herzog threatening to shoot him, makes light of that too. In My Best Fiend, Herzog claims he and Kinksi collaborated to create some of the most outrageous passages.

Paul Martin said...

I saw this film for the first time almost a year ago (I loved it and want to see more of Kurosawa). I also have a six year old, but he wasn't with me. I find it inspirational that children of his age can sit quite happily in a sub-titled film and heartily enjoy it. I think it's a great gift that we as adults can imbue them with a love of world cinema.

Noel Vera said...

By all means let your six year old watch the Studio Ghibli films--not a chore for them, and not a chore for you, they're both beautiful and moving.

I'm thinking--how about Yojimbo? or Hidden Fortress?