(Shichinin no samurai)
Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Yoshio Inaba, Seiji Miyaguchi,
For “the finest Japanese film ever made” (Donald Richie), and a staple of nearly every top-ten film list ever made, Seven Samurai has a surprisingly familiar plot: a handful of strangers band together to protect helpless farmers from bandits. Then again, it’s because of Seven Samurai that this plot seems so familiar: one of the first non-Western films to reach a wide audience in the United States, it entered the Hollywood consciousness, where it inspired The Magnificent Seven, The Wild Bunch, and others. Often imitated, it’s still unmatched, and seeing it on the big screen shows why: the controlled chaos and limitless roar of the battle scenes, mixed with the minutest details, like a field of flowers glowing in the afternoon sun or mist settling in a forest. And, of course, there’s Toshiro Mifune as the manic seventh samurai, all coiled rage and uncouth rebellion in a performance that is as raw now as it was then.