Seven Samurai

I watched Seven Samurai yesterday, and really did not like it. I was surprised, because I saw it in what I assumed were the perfect conditions: at the BFI IMAX (one of my favourite cinemas) in the middle of the day so I wasn’t tired. But even that couldn’t save it for me.

I can understand that it has been very influential. The whole “putting the crew together” act was the spitting image of Ocean’s 11. The way the action sequences are shot is almost identical to The Lord of the Rings. But the trouble is, those later movies do it better. Seven Samurai is slow, with either bad or poorly translated dialogue, mediocre actors, and underwhelming cinematography. The characters are caricatures with very little development; it is very hard to care when they die. The jokes are not funny, though maybe that’s due to changing comedic tastes. And the movie is about 2 hours too long.

Too often, we confuse something that is innovative with something that is good. The reality is that it’s very hard to simultaneously invent something new and perfect it. Instead, someone like Kurosawa comes along and introduces new ideas, and later directors figure out how to use those ideas more effectively. This state of affairs, where things get better over time, is exactly what’s supposed to happen! But for whatever reason, prestige unfairly accrues to the originators.

This isn’t to write Kurosawa off entirely — I enjoyed Rashomon, though even that isn’t as good as people make it out to be.

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