For the Criterion selection this week, I watched the Seven Samurai, a 1954 Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa. The movie has been the source for multiple remakes and retelling in different settings, including Magnificent Seven, Oceans Eleven, The Dirty Dozen, and even A Bug's Life. The archetype of recruiting a specialized group to help solve a problem is a versatile one, and I think that it works because it is very character focused. The battle scenes are intriguing in the film, but not half so much as the different characters that are created and the interactions between them. A few of my favorite things:
-Most action movies today don't do a great job showing fear in the main characters. You would think that stoicism is just something that all people just innately have. Characters who you are invested in usually seldom show cowardice. Generally, it's the cowards who actually lose in the end. The hero's are the ones who keep calm under the most terrifying circumstances. In the Seven Samurai, even according to the film's last line, the villagers are the winners. Yohei has a face that is constantly molded into an expression of hopelessness. He is by far my favorite character in the film. There is no stoicism for him, even when he overcomes his fear and defends his post, his face never changes. It's perfect. We need more of this in film.
-On the same note, all of the villagers are people you would not want to really be friends with. The have 2 volume settings, they are either screaming at each other or bowing in cowardice. Yet somehow they seem to be more interesting than the cool-headed Samurai. Which brings me to Kikuchiyo.
-Supposedly Kikuchiyo wasn't going to be in the film originally. They were just going to have 6 samurai, but the director felt that they needed a more volatile character to make the movie watchable. Obviously this was some real inspiration. Kikuchiyo provides many of the films very best/funniest scenes. His interactions with Yohei feel very true to life. You can tell that he is singling Yohei out not just to teach him a lesson or make fun of him, but because he likes him more than the other villagers. This is confirmed later in the film. I also loved the scene of him riding Yohei's horse and falling off, and of course his insane plot to steal a musket so that he could be as revered as Kyuzo. His insane laugh makes you never really quite sure of what he is going to do next. You can hardly wait for him to come back on screen.
-This movie is superior to imitators like Oceans Eleven because of the characters with volatility take front and center. It's fun to watch characters be cool under pressure and have all the right responses in every situation, but it's way funner to have a character who is the complete contrast take center stage and threaten to ruin everything, only to actually end up becoming the true hero.
Downton Abbey started in the UK last night. Natalie and I watched it and she cried at least three times.
Sunday night we also had Blair Pettijohn and Sarah Low over for dinner and tire changing. We finally got our car cleaned up from last week when a deer decided to fun into the drivers side of my car. Actually, I should be getting a call sometime soon to take my car to get a new mirror put on it. Whoo hoo!