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Movie-A-Day #3: The Seven Samurai (1954).

January 3, 2011

Today marks the anniversary of the Meiji Restoration in Japan in 1868. It was the culmination of perhaps the most sweeping cultural change any nation has ever seen. Japan’s feudal tradition, virtually unchanged for centuries of shogun rule, was swept aside almost overnight as the country was opened to the West and its modern government was put in place.

Most emblematic of the change was the abrupt end of the culture of the samurai. For the Japanese, they have become symbolic of the virtues of that vanished era and Japanese filmmakers have returned to samurai stories again and again, in much the same way American filmmakers have mined the western genre. So to mark the end of the feudal era in Japan, it’s only appropriate to turn to a samurai movie, and Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai” is perhaps the pinnacle of that genre. Not only is the storytelling superb, but it also demonstrates the deep parallels between the samurai films and American westerns. Kurosawa tried to marry the two genres by consciously using many western tropes in “The Seven Samurai,” and American director John Sturges repaid the debt by remaking the film as a western in 1960 as “The Magnificent Seven.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 3, 2011 8:45 am

    A terrific movie. One of these days, I really do need to watch Sturges’ Western remake.

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