Cinemallennials: Seven Samurai (1954)
Welcome to the first Cinemallennials monthly column for Classic Movie Hub! For those of you who are unfamiliar with Cinemallennials, it is a bi-weekly podcast in which I, and another millennial, watch a classic film that we’ve never seen before, and discuss its significance and relevance in today’s world.
Akira Kurosawa is often considered to be one of, if not the greatest filmmakers of all time. Kurosawa heightened the art form of filmmaking by making celluloid his canvas – from his use of rain to elevate the emotional depth of his film’s tone to his use of bringing in all of the colors of the rainbow to symbolize the feelings of the subjects of his film. In addition to his painter’s touch, Kurosawa’s camera placement and movement is second to none as he is able to keep audiences’ attention as the characters in his films never seem to stop moving. From Seven Samurai to Dreams, Kurosawa has been well-respected by the some of the most influential directors over the nearly 60 years he worked in the film industry. Bergman, Fellini, Tarkovsky, Herzog, Kubrick, and probably most famously, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas all were influenced by Kurosawa’s films.
The film follows the story of a village of poor farmers under the constant threat of being raided by a group of bandits during one of Japan’s deadliest periods. After overhearing the bandits’ plan to plunder and pillage yet again, the farmers are set on a quest to find samurai who are willing to defend the village for only a stomach full of food. The farmers achieve their goal, but both the villagers and the samurai themselves might not be who they exactly claim to be.
During the episode, Sean and I will be discussing the film’s significance as a classic period piece and how they are gateways into learning about history, and the overall philosophy of the samurai code of honor. We’ll also talk about the cultural references from Seven Samurai that millennials like us grew up with, whether it be Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, A Bug’s Life or even basic history classes in middle and high school, not to mention,for even younger generations, the recent videogame Ghost of Tsushima.
After the Second World War, when the military side of Bushido (codes and principles of samurai culture) failed and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki occurred, people in Japan felt that their past use of Bushido damaged the Japanese spirit. Sean and I felt Kurosawa was trying to convey to his audience that if we apply the moral codes and attitudes of the samurai including modesty, compassion, and harmony (vs individuality, arrogance and apathy), we have the chance of becoming a better society — and that is a lesson we all need to hear right now. As the leader of the samurai, Kambei says “By protecting others, you save yourself. If you only think of yourself, you’ll only destroy yourself.”
Through the historically-based story and detailing, Sean and I were introduced to both the samurai and post-war people of Japan, both materially and philosophically, without ever having to step into a classroom. Classic period pieces like Seven Samurai will never cease to provide opportunities for future generations to learn from the past and to create a better society.
I hope you enjoy this episode of Cinemallennials, which you can find here on apple or on spotify. Please reach out to me as I would love to hear your thoughts on Seven Samurai, especially if you’re a first-time viewer too!
— Dave Lewis for Classic Movie Hub
Dave Lewis is the producer, writer, and host of Cinemallennials, a podcast where he and another millennial watch a classic film that they haven’t seen before ranging from the early 1900s to the late 1960s and discuss its significance and relevance in our world today. Before writing for Classic Movie Hub, Dave wrote about Irish and Irish-American history, the Gaelic Athletic Association in the United States, and Irish innovators for Irish America magazine. You can find more episodes of Cinemallennials, film reviews and historical analyses, on Dave’s website dlewmoviereview.com or his YouTube channel.