A to Z Films Meme (S) Runner Up, Noteworthy Mentions

Runner Up

Seven Samurai

The most famous and high­ly praised Japan­ese film of a band of samu­rais pro­tect­ing a vil­lage from ban­dits gave rise to an entire genre of films. ‘Schi­chinin no samu­rai’ is Kurosawa’s grand epic when he was at the height of his cre­ative pow­ers. For those who haven’t seen it, I can only say watch it and enjoy it. Then you’ll start to see from where many of your favorite action epics came from!SevenSamurai

Sev­en Samu­rai was the first film to assem­ble a team to exe­cute a mis­sion. It led not only to its remake, The Mag­nif­i­cent Sev­en, but also The Guns of Navarone, The Dirty Dozen, Ocean’s Eleven, The Ital­ian Job, and innu­mer­able oth­er war and caper movies. Kurosawa’s Yojim­bo was remade as Fist­ful of Dol­lars, which led to the spaghet­ti West­ern. Roger Ebert explains how this and Hid­den Fortress inspir­ing Star Wars essen­tial­ly means Kuro­sawa gave employ­ment to action heroes for the next 60 years till date.

The hero being intro­duced by his engag­ing in a brave act in a sit­u­a­tion not relat­ed to the main plot. Each hero with­in the team get­ting his own intro­duc­to­ry sequence estab­lish­ing the char­ac­ter. These are plot devices copied by dozens of movies over the years. The use of deep focus cam­era tech­nique to keep every­one in focus whether near or far. The movie runs well over three hours yet the inter­mis­sion seems like an unwant­ed break – such is the pow­er of the sto­ry-telling, so over­whelm­ing­ly Sev­en Samu­rai draws you in its world.

Con­trast the tough, com­mand­ing pres­ence of the lead, Takashi Shimu­ra (Kam­bei) with his worn out, defeat­ed, mean­ing­less exis­tence in Ikiru as Watan­abe. Con­trast the high-spir­it­ed, ram­bunc­tious, showoff Toshi­ro Mifu­ne (Kikuchiyo) with his restrained, awe-inspir­ing, impos­ing pres­ence in Red Beard. This is act­ing of the high­est cal­iber.

Those who do not under­stand why the ban­dits keep attack­ing the vil­lage repeat­ed­ly when it is clear that they are get­ting dec­i­mat­ed fail to under­stand the Japan­ese cul­tur­al roots behind the movie. Japan­ese soci­ety forces cul­tur­al roles and oblig­a­tions upon indi­vid­u­als and groups to the extent that they become masochis­tic.

Kurosawa’s metic­u­lous­ly per­fect­ed bat­tle-scenes, extra­or­di­nary cam­era work, great edit­ing – every­thing comes togeth­er to make this a high­ly enjoy­able, reward­ing cin­e­mat­ic expe­ri­ence.

Noteworthy Mentions

Schindler'sListSchindler’s List: It was more dif­fi­cult for me to choose the run­ner up between Schindler’s List and Sev­en Samu­rai, than the win­ner. In the greater scheme of things, maybe Schindler’s List would rate high­er. For exam­ple, if I were to choose between the two to select one movie that we should send to share with an alien civ­i­liza­tion, it would be Schindler’s List. I would like to tell the aliens – “look folks, here is what we did back on earth. We hope you don’t do any­thing like this. But more impor­tant­ly, we would also like you to know that there are peo­ple like Oskar Schindler back on earth, so we are not all evil. We’re all human beings and we try our best to make the good tri­umph.”

Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan: 30 min­utes of the most ter­ri­fy­ing war scene ever filmed start off this dev­as­tat­ing tour de force of Steven Spielberg’s war dra­ma. It is a com­pre­hen­sive assault on the sens­es and leaves you breath­less. Watch it on the big screen or watch it in a home the­atre with Dol­by Dig­i­tal 5.1 or DTS. You will be trans­port­ed to Oma­ha beach in Nor­mandy dur­ing WWII. The rest of the movie is great but I still have to go beyond my study of the open­ing sequence that has over­whelmed me each time I see it.

Sholay: A note­wor­thy men­tion that was inspired by the run­ner-up says a lot. The per­fect intro­duc­tion for a Bol­ly­wood vir­gin. The most beloved and famous Bol­ly­wood movie ever made. A must-see for gen­er­a­tions to come. Song and dance sequences where the plot con­tin­ues and is not paused for their sake. The slick­ly-edit­ed, impec­ca­bly filmed open­ing action sequence with the train and ban­dits on hors­es.

The use of silence. The swat­ting of a fly by the vil­lain denot­ing the mur­der of a vic­tim. Sharp char­ac­ter­i­za­tions.

The best vil­lain unlike any­thing seen before in Bol­ly­wood. Dia­logue that replaced school text­book lines in the minds of gen­er­a­tions born decades after­wards. R. D. Burman’s mem­o­rable score. The mas­sacre sequence with slow-motion, freeze frames, and the sound of a swing squeak­ing used to dra­mat­ic effect. Do watch the uncen­sored director’s cut for the true, more ful­fill­ing cli­max – the cen­sors have cut the heart out of the sto­ry in what is essen­tial­ly a ‘revenge film’.

This entry was posted in Arts, cinema and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • While ‘Sev­en Samu­rai’ was an inspi­ra­tion for ‘Sholay’, it owes a greater debt to Ser­gio Leone’s ‘Once Upon A Time in the West’ — some of the scenes in ‘Sholay’ (mas­sacre of Thakur’s fam­i­ly, the fly scene you men­tion) are clear­ly inspired by sim­i­lar scenes from OUATITW.

  • at the risk of sound­ing gauche — i have always put sholay above sev­en samu­rai or the mag­nif­i­cent sev­en !!

    i would also sug­gest sap­ta­pa­di — a bril­liant tel­ugu film on caste, tra­di­tion and love 🙂 which is bril­liant­ly act­ed and direct­ed — and was bru­tal­ly r***ed in Hin­di as ‘jaag utha insaan’ — ouch 🙁

  • Dev

    Agree com­plete­ly with all your choic­es here.

  • though i get the over­all picture,I found Schindlers list a tad bit bor­ing but wont repeat view it.

    id place silence of the lambs in the note­wor­thy men­tion list.

    sholay, in true bol­ly­wood style, did have mul­ti­ple inspi­ra­tions, but stood out because of the plot, exe­cu­tion and direc­tion of sip­py.

  • Excel­lent stuff mahen­dra. Sor­ry to have missed these from the begin­ning (i.e. from A) — I guess I have a lot of read­ing to do :). I haven’t seen the Sev­en Samu­rai — should do so. Loved Schindler’s List as well as Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan. For a while, I used to dis­like Han­ks because I thought he was “over­ex­posed” — changed my mind after see­ing this and now I real­ly like him as an actor. BTW, your win­ner for S i.e. Shaw­shank — absolute­ly my most favorite movie (would have watched like like 50 times since it used to be on TNT/TBS here in US so often 🙂 ) . Mor­gan Free­man — even his nar­ra­tive has so much weight.

    Arun

  • I haven’t seen Sev­en Samu­rai yet! So, its on my hit list now.
    I can nev­er for­get the open­ing sequence of SPR. I was so tak­en aback that it took me almost a week to come out of it. It was so damn real!

  • Anand

    I sud­den­ly remem­bered 2 movies that were not list­ed on the blog. How­ev­er they are from G and L…
    * Good Will Hunt­ing
    * Leav­ing Las Vegas

  • Anand

    And one for ‘C’ — Cidade de Deus (City of God).

    I saw some of these Rio fave­las while on a bus tour for the Redeemer Christ. They also have spe­cif­ic par­ty tours for the favela pic­tured in the movie, but I refused to par­take in the lame touristy expe­ri­ence.