Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Kurosawa and me

Thanks to the now-significant market penetration of high-def TVs, and the breakthrough in pricing below $150 for Blu-Ray players, it seems as if this format of high-def is here to stay.  And so the world's film libraries are being re-released in the new and MUCH improved package.

And so it came to pass that I got my hands on Akira Kurosawa's recently re-released masterpiece Shichinin no samurai (Seven Samurai.)  OK, sue me because it has taken so long to see this thing but I spent my youth in a house where TV and movies were strictly prohibited, so it wasn't possible to see it until I went off to the University of Minnesota.  And after taking a date to Bergman's The Seventh Seal, I came to the conclusion that art-house movies weren't reliable in advancing the aims of the mating process.  Besides, I had gotten into a great choir and was learning things like Handel's Messiah and Verdi's Requiem so my time and energy for absorbing more culture was pretty limited.

The story of Seven Samurai revolves around the need for a farming community to defend itself from bandits.  The farmers are in a situation that ranges from pathetic to desperate.  These dilemmas are why I find this film so interesting.  The first chapter of Elegant Technology is named The Hunter and the Farmer. My discovery of the ancient struggle between the Producers and the Predators was first triggered by the agricultural crises in the early 1980s in the American Midwest.

Unlike Kurosawa's farmers, the American farmers were dispossessed by slick-talking bankers and sheriff sales.  But the dynamic was very similar--because agriculture is a profession that literally ties someone to a place, farmers are vulnerable to any rip-off artist, scam or banditry that comes along.  In an early scene of Seven Samurai, there is a farm woman who screams about the miseries of her life--essentially cataloging the pains that society has heaped upon farmers throughout history.

Seven Samurai has become one of the more influential movies in the history of the art form.  The most significant tribute was an American movie called The Magnificent Seven, the most whimsical was Pixar's animated feature A Bug's Life.

I am glad I finally got to see this classic.  Kurosawa and I agree on a very great deal.  And maybe if I had spent my meager entertainment dollar on a screening when I was in college, writing The Hunter and the Farmer may not have been so difficult.  But I doubt it.  I didn't have the background to understand Seven Samurai when I was 18.

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