I’ve burned through this in the past week.
I’m almost done with it. After I finish the series I’ll write some thoughts on it, and let me admit up front that I’ve never seen the Kurosawa original. If anyone has seen it, do chime in, spoilers are ok.
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5 thoughts on “Samurai 7”
Essentially in this version Samurai are Jedi (in the Hollywood version they are “cowboys”). Just to drive the point home, one of them blocks a (big) blaster shot with his lightsaber, er, katana.
The Kurosawa original was pretty Marxist, and bitterly & unsentimentally class-obsessed. Samurai 7 keeps a lot of that attitude, but is generally more “Hollywood” in its sympathies. The Gonzo TV series is a lot more optimistic, and of course is all sorts of more complicated and operatic. The Kurosawa movie was fairly hard-core realism, even compared with his other samurai movies like Yojimbo or Throne of Blood. the Seven Samurai had more in common with Kurosawa’s social-problem movies of the time, like The Bad Sleep Well than his other historicals.
I’d say that the Gonzo TV series has about as much in common with its inspiration as the first Star Wars movie has in common with its alleged inspiration, Hidden Fortress, which is to say, sort of, if you don’t get too deep into it, or expect any close one-to-one correspondences.
I’d say that the TV series is more fun than the movie, which gives off a whiff of dutifulness and puritanical virtue on occasion.
I actually own the Kurosawa original, but I’ve only watched it a few times. Still, I never really understood the claims about Marxist themes. I guess you could consider any movie about a poor village to be Marxist in that all the people in the village share a certain equality (i.e. they’re all poor!) In fact, I can’t seem to remember any mention of government at all in the movie… Japan seems to be in a state of almost anarchy (at least for this small village, it is). Personally, I always thought of the movie as being symbolic of postwar Japan. You’ve got a band of ronin (i.e. failed warrior class) helping protect a traumatized people from marauding bandits.
Eh, maybe I should watch this again. My memory is hazy.
In any case, Kurosawa was a masterful filmmaker, even if you don’t agree with his politics (I love Yojimbo for instance, and that doesn’t exactly follow my politics…) Seven Samurai is extremely well made.
Samurai 7 is actually on my list of Anime to watch. I believe it’s after Banner of the Stars (which I’ve started) and Trigun.
I don’t think that western political ideas map that well onto an eastern set-piece – obviously there will be parallels, but the core story stands alone quite well, and is of course a product of a specific historical era as well. I am now very interested in seeing both Seven Samurai as well as Magnificent Seven (the western Pete alluded to). I wonder what replaces the rice in the latter?
Of course, Gerge Lucas admitted to being heavily influenced by Kurosawa, and of course by Joseph Campbell, when creating Star Wars. In fact Star Wars is basically a distillation of character archetypes from Kurosawa, who are then run through a Campbellian plot framework, by the book. And yes, replacing the katana with lightsabers. Any similarities between Samurai 7 and Star Wars are therefore going to be because both are derivative works from the original.
Kurosawa has a reputation for being a very Western-minded director, especially with his samurai pictures, which he tended to film as westerns or Shakespearean tragedies. I don’t know, I haven’t watched enough honest run-of-the-mill chambara to tell whether I’ve been sold a a bill of goods or not, but that’s what the critics say.
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