I just watched Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai), directed by Akira Kurosawa. Classic, 1954 black and white drama of good guys vs. the bad guys... against overwhelming odds.
I didn't really stop to think about what a carefully--and patiently--constructed film this is, until the intermission reel ran about halfway through and I thought, hasn't it been over an hour? A little more actually, was the answer; this epic is 3 hours, 27 minutes. And what's so wonderful about that? I think its actually what The Lord of the Rings movies were missing: quiet time.
In contrast to the LOTR books, the movies--even though they're of similar length as the Seven Samurai--seem to be non-stop action. So much action, that there isn't time for the mind to rest and consider the tensions, the characters, and the other subtleties that make up a well constructed narrative.
Kurosawa takes his time building his story and his characters, so that when the final battle scenes come, we go into the battle with full knowledge of who these people are, how they feel and what drives them. But the final battle scene is not the only action in the film, there is a balance of drama, character building, conversation, humor and action throughout, along with some very nice camera shots along the way.
There are three scenes focused on women, for example, that not only work as contrast to the general masculinity of this picture, but are so subtle, and yet so powerful. Two of them don't even have any dialog, yet Kurosawa and his actresses bring these scenes to life and the story pours from the screen, wordlessly. Breathtaking.
I had heard that Seven Samurai was a classic, but I'm not enough of a film buff to fully understand its place in film history, which is apparently pretty high falutin'. Seven Samurai shows up on some serious ten best films of all time lists. Seven Samurai was the basis of the 1960 American film, The Magnificent Seven.
And before we close, a little praise, and some apropos ranting:
Thanks to my local public library for having such a great DVD collection! And thanks to everyone who either: didn't take this movie out because its old, or sub-titled, OR did take it out and had sense enough not to manhandle the disk.
I mean, who scratches a borrowed disk? Especially a library disk, that belongs to all of us? Y'all need a lesson in implied social contractual obligations. You know, how your rights to borrow a DVD from the library are inextricably* bound to your obligations to treat said DVD (book, map, magazine, et al) with respect, even reverence. yeah, i said it
You know what? I think the care and treatment of library materials warrants its own post.
Peace. Oh, and see this movie. Like, now.
* Unavoidably, inescapably, indissolubly, indivisibly, ineluctably... bound!