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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Seven Samurai features a group of samurai who help a farming village defend itself against a gang of bandits. There are multiple skirmishes, and the villagers, samurai, and bandits suffer casualties. The violence is not particularly bloody but it's accentuated through fluid camera movements and slow motion cinematography. The samurai and villagers are shown to have character flaws, but ultimately, they all stand together in the face of the ruthless bandits - who are not really developed beyond their thieving impulses. Strong language is used -- in subtitles -- but sparingly so. The presence of subtitles may be a hindrance to some younger viewers.
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What's the story?
SEVEN SAMURAI presents a tale of displaced samurai that put aside class differences in order to defend a farming village that has been the unfortunate target of a wily gang of bandits. The film's three and a half hour length is more than justified by the intricate character development of both the samurai and the villagers, as both groups let go of class biases to accomplish their mutual goal of fortifying the village. By the climactic showdowns against the bandits, a palpable anxiety is present due to the great affinity the audience feels for the characters. Worthy of special note is Toshiro Mifune's performance as the intense samurai Kikuchiyo who has a past that he is trying to hide.
Is it any good?
In what many consider to be his masterpiece, director Akira Kurosawa's action sequences are fantastic and, for their time, very innovative. Sweeping camera movements and slow motion are used quite effectively to pull the viewer into the thick of the battles. Of course, the techniques have now become old hat for action films, but Kurosawa got it so right that even now the action seem especially kinetic and involving.
This classic of the samurai film genre will appeal to teens and older who love action. Young viewers may find the human deaths disturbing, as many of the most sympathetic characters meet their demise while protecting the village. For those who can deal with the emotion of loss, Seven Samurai offers substantial rewards.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the rigid class system in place during the time period of Seven Samurai. Why is there such a separation between the samurai and the villagers? What makes it easier for the samurai and villagers to overcome the social barriers to band together?
How might the film have been different if more insight had been supplied for the bandits' motivations? Are the "bad guys" oversimplified?
Does violence have the same impact in a movie like this as in an action movie? Why or why not? Which type of movie violence do you find more affecting and/or upsetting?
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