Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kael of the Week: On "The Seven Samurai" (and "The Hurt Locker")

I read this review from "I Lost It At The Movies" a day or two after I saw "The Hurt Locker," and was struck by what seemed to me to be a description of that film's only real flaw.

"Here is the problem of men's actions pictures: either we get the ritual conflict of slick bad men versus strong silent heroes, i.e., evil pitted against good in a frame of reference too silly to take seriously, or we get the ritual conflict set in the commonplaces of a shopworn, socially conscious frame of reference which tries to give depth and meaning to the ritual and succeeds only in destroying its beautiful simplicity. The Seven Samurai triumphs over those problems by pouring all its energies into the extremities of human experience--into conflict itself--but it still looks for social 'truths' beyond the action and provides an explicit content so banal that the epic beauties seem to be a virtuoso exercise. Perhaps Kurosawa, like his obsessive master swordsman, has no thoughts beyond the perfection of his craft. Action is all--the pity is that he doesn't seem to know that in The Seven Samurai it is enough."

-1961

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