The Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai)
In Wheeler Auditorium
Donald Richie is widely regarded as the leading historian and critic of the Japanese Cinema. Among his many books on Japanese Cinema are the following works: “The Japanese Film: Art and Industry” (1959), co-authored with Joseph L. Anderson; “Japanese Movies” (1961); “The Japanese Movie: An Illustrated History” (1965); “The Films of Akira Kurosawa” (1965); “Japanese Cinema” (1971); and “Ozu” (1974). A former Curator of the Film Department of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Richie has been a resident of Japan for the past thirty years, where he also has made several experimental films and written on subjects other than Cinema.
In terms of pure spectacle, Seven Samurai is Kurosawa's most ambitious film, and the production of it was a long and arduous task. Kurosawa insisted upon shooting entirely on location, and this, coupled with his habitual perfectionism, drove the budget upward at an astronomical rate. Twice money ran out and shooting was halted. Each time Kurosawa decided to wait out the studio, and each time he was successful. The necessary money arrived, the film was completed, became the most expensive film ever produced in Japan, and was a great commercial success. It was many years, however, before the complete, uncut version was made available to the public. It has subsequently come to be recognized as a milestone in the history of cinema.
The basic plot situation is simple. A small village is attacked yearly by marauding bandits. One year the farmers decide that they have had enough and set about hiring masterless samurai to defend them from the bandits. Since they have nothing to offer in payment, their task is extremely difficult. But they are fortunate in recruiting Kambei (Takashi Shimura), an older, experienced samurai whose nobility of character attracts other samurai to the cause. They are joined by Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune), a brash, uncouth young warrior who is the son of a farmer. In scenes of surpassing beauty, the seven undertake to train the farmers, fight the bandits and save the village. They are successful, but in the end it is the farmers who have won. They have their village, their crop and a certain future. The samurai have lost four of their number and face no future at all except more fighting.