Seven Samurai (Criterion Collection)
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One of the most beloved movie epics of all time, Akira Kurosawas Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) tells the story of a sixteenth-century village whose desperate inhabitants hire the eponymous warriors to protect them from invading bandits. This three-hour ridefeaturing legendary actors Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimuraseamlessly weaves philosophy and entertainment, delicate human emotions and relentless action into a rich, evocative, and unforgettable tale of courage and hope.
Hailed as the greatest film in the history of Japanese cinema, Seven Samurai is director Akira Kurosawa's undisputed masterpiece. Arguably the greatest of all jidai-gecki (or historical swordplay films), Kurosawa's classic 1954 action drama has never been surpassed in terms of sheer power of emotion, kinetic energy, and dynamic character development. The story is set during the civil unrest of 16th-century Japan, as the cowering residents of a small farming village are seeking protection against seasonal attacks by a band of marauding bandits. Offering mere handfuls of rice as payment, they hire seven unemployed "ronin" (masterless samurai), including a boastful swordsman (Toshiro Mifune) who is actually a peasant farmer's son, desperately seeking glory, acceptance, and revenge against those who destroyed his family. Led by the calmly strategic Kambei (Takashi Shimura, star of Kurosawa's previous classic, Ikiru), the samurai form mutual bonds of honor and respect, but remain distant from the villagers, knowing that their assignment may prove to be fatal.
Kurosawa masterfully composed his shots to emphasize these group dynamics, and Seven Samurai is a textbook study of the director's signature techniques, including extensive use of telephoto lenses to compress action, delineate character relationships, and intensify motion. While the climactic battle against raiding thieves remains one of the most breathtaking sequences ever filmed, Seven Samurai is most triumphant as a peerless example of character development, requiring all of its 2-hour, 37-minute running time to illuminate every essential detail of villagers and samurai alike, including an abundance of humor as Kambei's defense plan unfolds. In terms of its overall impact, Seven Samurai spawned dozens of copycat films (notably the American Western remake The Magnificent Seven) and cannot be adequately summarized by even the most comprehensive synopsis; it must be seen to be fully appreciated, and the Criterion Collection's 2006 DVD reissue is an essential addition to any definitive home-video library. --Jeff Shannon
On the DVDs
According to the accompanying booklet, "the picture has been slightly window-boxed (in correct original 1.33:1 aspect ratio) to ensure that the maximum image is visible on all monitors." The two-disc format was necessary "to maintain optimal image quality throughout the compression process," with dual-layered DVD-9's encoded "at the highest possible bit rate for the quantity of material included." The picture and sound quality are simply amazing compared to Criterion's one-disc release from 1998. The all-new, fully restored high-definition digital transfer takes full advantage of HD's clarity and crispness, resulting in picture detail far surpassing the previous DVD. This also applies to the soundtrack, presented in optional Dolby surround in addition to the remastered original mono track. The new transfer "was mastered in 2k resolution from a duplicate negative created with wetgate processing from the original fine-grain master positive" (the film's original negative is no longer available), and "several different digital hardware and software solutions were utilized for flicker, instability, dirt, scratch, and grain management."
The complete 207-minute film is accompanied by two full-length commentary tracks, including a new track combining the critical insights of film scholars David Desser, Joan Mellen, Stephen Price (author of The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa), Tony Rayns, and the dean of Japanese film experts, Donald Richie (author of The Films of Akira Kurosawa). Each scholar is given approximately 40 minutes of film-time, and their commentaries represent a unique opportunity to appreciate Seven Samurai from distinct yet complementary critical perspectives. The commentary by Japanese film expert Michael Jeck (from Criterion's original 1988 laserdisc release) remains useful as a thorough analysis of Seven Samurai, primarily in terms of visual composition.
The 50-minute "making of" documentary, from Japan's 2002 Toho Masterworks TV series Akira Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful to Create emphasizes Kurosawa's collaboration with co-screenwriters Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni, including production footage, crewmember interviews, and a reverent visit to the rural inn where Seven Samurai was written over a six-week period of intense seclusion. The two-hour "My Life in Cinema" interview with Kurosawa was recorded in 1993, with fellow filmmaker Nagisa Oshima serving as a gentle admirer, colleague, and well-informed historian of Kurosawa's career. "Seven Samurai: Origins and Influences" is a richly informative documentary that places Kurosawa's classic in both historical and cinematic context, examining its place in the jidai-gecki (swordplay) genre, its accurate depiction of samurai codes and traditions, and its stature as the prototype for many films that followed. The lavishly illustrated 58-page booklet includes eight brief essays on various aspects of Seven Samurai, each written by noted film scholars or film directors (including Arthur Penn and Sidney Lumet). Also included is a reminiscence by the great actor Toshiro Mifune, excerpted from a conversation recorded in 1993. Taken as a whole, the remastered three-disc Seven Samurai ranks as one of the finest DVD sets ever released. --Jeff Shannon
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Top Customer Reviews
the best special feature, the commentary track, is very detailed, in fact at some point, it is annoyingly too detailed! but if you want to know why toshiro mifune's acting was over the top, or where he was born (Manchuria), or why millet seems so low compared to rice, or why the light seems to change during the scene where we first see Kanbei Ishima (the bald, dignified leader of the samurai, here portrayed by Takashi Shimura), then the commentary track is indispensable. I've seen this DVD twice, with commentary on, and with commentary off. It's quite easy for me since I don't understand Japanese anyway, so the dialogue comes to me strictly through subtitles. needless to say, I highly recommend watching it in the manner I described.
there have been many "tributes" to this movie, from the obvious (The Magnificent Seven, The 13th Warrior), to the not so obvious (Disney/Pixar's "Bug's Life"). In all of them, the idea that a band of warriors would come to the rescue of an obscure village for nothing more than a bowl of rice (what, not even meat to go with that?Read more ›
The story begins when the inhabitants of a very small rural village start discussing what to do about the bandits that attack them from time to time, taking everything of value with them. The farmers have very few resources and hardly any food left, but need to find a solution to their urgent problem or face certain death. An old and wise man proposes an unorthodox idea: to hire wandering samurai in very dire straits to defend the village, paying them only with food.
The others farmers deem that suggestion outlandish but, having no other options, decide to give it a try. That is the point when we accompany them in their quest for salvation to a nearby town, where they look for samurai willing to work for almost nothing. Will they get hold of some? And what kind of people will the farmers be able to tempt with such poor offer?
The answers to those questions, brought to life thanks to Kurosawa's mastery of the silver screen, end up giving us the opportunity to watch one of those very few movies that truly deserve to be called "classics". Highly recommended...
Seven Samurai is my favorite of Kurosawa's films (next to Dreams) because it is one of the most perfectly balanced films I have ever seen. The cast is superb, the camerawork is legendary, and the script is so full of wisdom and poignancy that by the end of the film you want to become a samurai.
Whether or not it is the greatest film of all time is irrelevant because art is not measured quantitatively. It's about as silly as trying to figure out the greatest painting of all time. This movie is to be appreciated along the same lines as Beethoven's 9th. Simply absorb in the genius of the work and be transformed in your perceptions of what is possible.
Most recent customer reviews
Classic Kurosawa film. Pretty good transfer and overall picture quality. My one complaint is the audio track. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Ryan G
Arrived on time and wasn't damaged or scratched what so ever. Couldn't have been more happier happier.Published 9 months ago by Brandon Barber
Have you ever seen a movie in which a group of renegade nobodys band together to protect a village? One of the renegades in the group is a cheat, one of them is a drunk, one is a... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Nat Hawthorne
Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece about samurai's duty and honour when traditional order was breaking down.Published 16 months ago by MCM132128
I believe that this is still the samurai reference movie. I had it in VHS but could not resist buying the DVD , This Kurosawa's movie inspired the american western The magnificent... Read morePublished 16 months ago by michel delisle
An amazing classic. If only people would still help out those in need without requiring money. Classic Samurai combat and emotionally riveting, this movie is one for any lover of... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Dalton Rabbetts
I don't know how many times we have watched this movie and enjoyed it each time,l find l learn more each time l see it . Read morePublished 21 months ago by Suzanne Crane
three and a half hours of bold filmmaking to inscribe the post medieval years of Japan. Definitely a must watch, especially to those who are fans of Kurosawa or MifunePublished 22 months ago by Anthony Chauvin
“Akira Kurosawa’s” the Seven Samurai”is consider one of his best films,and I concur with that,
At Three hours and twenty seven minutes and four second,I was not bored at... Read more
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