The Seven Samurai are still inimitable

The Seven Samurai are still inimitable

One of the greatest films in cinema history is being re-released in theaters this week, restored in 4K.

It is both the most copied film of all centuries – this one and the previous one – and the most enduring: even without having seen it, we have the impression of knowing it by heart. Peasants recruit a band of warriors to protect them from a raid by bandits. Many will (badly) reproduce this very obvious film, and it is not even a question of sanctification, since the very simple principle of the film is infinitely reproducible, whatever the context. But the years pass (seventy, since its release in theaters: a human life), and The Seven Samurai is still as beautiful and perfect, referential. This is also the second time that Kurosawa creates a cinema cliché, Two years later Rashomonwhich will also be copied, plagiarized, imitated, and which will remain much more enduring than its imitators. Even The Magnificent Seven is, and always will be, a notch below.

At random, while we’re on the subject of number-based films, 13 Assassins by Takashi Miike and THE 13th warriorby John McTiernan, two very Seven Samuraiare two splendid films because they are precisely something other than The Seven Samurai. At the last Cannes Film Festival, when Hirokazu Kore-eda came to present the screening of the restored 4K copy of the filmhe brandished his own VHS, which he had lovingly decorated himself when he was young. A way like any other to appropriate this slightly heritage classic – as if he were writing his name in a volume of the Pléiade, frozen by the legend.

The release of the restored version of the Seven Samurai (nothing to say about it, except that it’s hot) a few months after the two were broadcast on Netflix Rebel Moon Zack Snyder’s work therefore reaffirms how inimitable he is. Snyder may have said that his space opera diptych was “a mix between Star Wars and Seven Samurai” (forgetting that Kurosawa was also one of George Lucas’ models) since it told the story of a band of galactic warriors fighting to protect wheat-growing peasants from a horrible interstellar empire. It only had the pitch: it lacked everything else.

Goodbye The Seven Samuraiit is obviously having fun watching a great historical film full of action (the Japanese call it jidai-geki) but also remain gobsmacked by the way Kurosawa writes and observes his characters. The film spends an hour (out of three) staging poor, starving peasants, on the verge of suicide, ready to make any compromise to survive, before the seven characters of the title gradually arrive. Seven variations of the samurai: the duelist, the leader, the war madman, the disciple… All marked, or destined to be, by the seal of violence.

And while we are talking about violence, we will not see any glorification of combat, even for a good cause: “Fighting has never brought me anything. I am alone in the world.”says Kanbei (the immense Takeshi Shimura), the leader of the seven, a veteran of so many absurd battles and who knows what war is, unlike the young mad dogs who think they will find glory at the edge of the sword (in Rebel Moon, the warriors all have the same story and therefore seem interchangeable). Every death in the film is a shock – even the enemy deaths, scrupulously noted on a parchment. The Seven Samurai never heroizes the elite against the horde, the “few against many” that excites some filmmakers so much (even Miike, even McTiernan), and that’s also what Snyder didn’t understand about Kurosawa. It’s not just about filming dead people in slow motion: it’s also necessary to understand what these dead people are.

Similar Posts