Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)

akira-kurosawa-seven-samuraiToho (the studio) had estimated that Seven Samurai was to be completed during the course of eleven weeks. Kurosawa had very different ambitions and extended production to last for a whole year. Of course he then ran out of money several times, and had to require additional funding from the studio. And Toho gave in every time. From then on, Kurosawa became known as Tenno. The Emperor.

Minoru Chiaki, who plays Heihachi in the film, has told the following anecdote from the production: 1)

Location: A pond on the Tamagawa River. Kurosawa and Chiaki are fishing. Only half the film is completed, the whole budget spent and production stopped.

Chiaki: «So what’s going to happen?»
Kurosawa: «Well, the company isn’t going to throw away all the money it’s already put into the film. So long as my pictures are hits I can afford to be unreasonable. Of course, if they start losing money then I’ve made some enemies.»

Money is provided, shooting starts up, the money is spent once more, production stopped. Kurosawa and Chiaki are fishing again.

Kurosawa: (Dangling his line with some satisfaction.) «Now that they’ve gotten in this deep, they have no choice but to finish it!»

We know that they did. It became as Kurosawa intended it to be.
The film has an impressive drive all the way through, which is unusual for films of this length. Moreover, for the first time Kurosawa used tele lenses, which meant that we are brought much closer into battle sequences than before. Combined with multiple cameras this was nothing less than a redefinition of the action film. Toshiro Mifune is developing his character from Rashomon to perfection in his outsider role. Both he and Takashi Shimura, as the samurai leader, is brilliant. But it’s arguably Seiji Miyaguchi as Kyuzo who steals the show. He plays the ultracool samurai who doesn’t say much. The effort led to cult worship.

What a source of inspiration it has been for other movies as well. The clearest reference must be The Magnificent Seven (1960) with Yul Brynner in the role of Shimura.

1) The Films of Akira Kurosawa: University of California Press 1998


Topp 10 fra 1943

  1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Deborah Kerr’s three roles are magnificent acting.
  2. The Ox-Bow Incident. A rare nihilistic western.
  3. Vredens dag. Dreyer had a way with women.
  4. Five Graves to Cairo. Beautifully photographed and an underrated Wilder gem.
  5. Red Hot Riding Hood. If you can’t do this thing a new way, Bud, I quit!
  6. Heaven Can Wait. Hilarious take on the afterlife.
  7. Sugata Sanshirô. Tenno’s first.
  8. Watch on the Rhine. Family with a past. And less future.
  9. Shadow of a Doubt. A quite creepy Joseph Cotten.
  10. The Outlaw. There are two reasons for Jane Russells fame.

Topp 10 fra 1948

Et vrient år.

  1. Drunken Angel. Men Kurosawa topper igjen.
  2. The Red Shoes. Foran tidenes dansefilm.
  3. Red River. Og knepent foran denne fantastiske westernen.
  4. Unfaithfully Yours. Udiskutabelt Sturgesk.
  5. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Trolig bare John Huston som kunne gjort denne.
  6. Yellow Sky. Fantastisk foto, og en glimrende underkjent western.
  7. Ladri di biciclette. Trist og fin.
  8. Hamlet. Men in tights.
  9. Oliver Twist. Dickens i Leansk regi kan ikke gå galt.
  10. Fort Apache. Henry Fondas film.

Topp 10 fra 1949

Da var vi i gang med det som nok blir det siste tiåret!

  1. The Third Man. Historien fremhever filmen, men det er først og fremst fotoarbeidet som er denne.
  2. Kind Hearts and Coronets. Morsom og med fin slutt, og 7x Alec Guiness.
  3. The Queen of Spades. Overnaturlig bra.
  4. Thieves’ Highway. Jules Dassins fine hevn-noir.
  5. The Heiress. Enda et strålende ulykkelig-kjærlighetsdrama med Monty Clift.
  6. White Heat. Den klassiske «Made it, Ma! Top of the world!»
  7. Colorado Territory. Joel McCrea var helt der oppe med de store.
  8. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. John Fords kavaleriflick hvor John Wayne, den tøffe sersjanten, røres til tårer.
  9. The Quiet Duel. Sykehusdrama fra Kurosawa.
  10. Whirlpool. Kleptomani, hypnose, mord og Gene Tierney i skjønn forening.

Topp 10 fra 1950

  1. Rashômon. -I thought you didn’t like Rashomon. -That’s not how I remember it.
  2. Sunset Blvd. Min første favoritt fra Billy Wilder.
  3. The Gunfighter. Peck med bart. Strålende western.
  4. Harvey. Bedre enn Donnie Darko.
  5. Los olvidados. Bedre enn City of God.
  6. Orphée. Den lettest tilgjengelige i trilogien.
  7. Where the Sidewalk Ends. Mmmm. Gene Tierney.
  8. D.O.A. Maté var god, og dette er en mørk film.
  9. Night and the City. Widmark som bryte-promotor.
  10. The Furies. Fin far/datter-skildring.