Archive for April 30th, 2008

Shichinin no samurai, one of the greatest films in the history of Japanese cinema has its pride of place in the best 100 best films of all time. The film belongs to a genre that is called jidai-gecki( historical swordplay films) and can be rightfully considered the mother of all action films. The number of films it has spawned and and cited at the end attest to my assertion. For those who want to enjoy this film I can recommend – Criterion Collection – 3-Disc Remastered Edition

Seven Samurai is director Akira Kurosawa’s undisputed masterpiece has never been surpassed in terms of sheer power of emotion, kinetic energy, and dynamic character development. It tells the story of a village of Japanese farmers under threat of attack by a gang of forty bandits in the late 16th century (possibly around 1587/1588). The farmers hold a meeting, and decide to fight back by hiring samurai to defend their village. Some are concerned that samurai are expensive and are known to lust after young farm women. A village elder tells them to find “hungry samurai” who will work for the village’s best food (handfuls of rice). An aging warrior, Kambei, assists the farmers in finding five other masterless samurai (“rônin”) to fight with him, together with a sixth clownish “samurai,” Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune).
Offering mere handfuls of rice as payment, the village elder hires seven unemployed “ronin” (masterless samurai), including a boastful swordsman ( Mifune) who is actually a peasant farmer’s son, desperately seeking glory, acceptance, and revenge against those who destroyed his family. Led by the calmly strategic Kambei (Takashi Shimura, star of Kurosawa’s previous classic, Ikiru), the samurai form mutual bonds of honor and respect, but remain distant from the villagers, knowing that their assignment may prove to be fatal.
The samurai construct defenses to fortify the village, and train the villagers to fight. Meanwhile, the youngest samurai, Katsushirô, begins a love affair with the daughter of one of the villagers, who has been masquerading as a boy. The second half of the film chronicles the battle between the samurai-led village militia and the bandits. Katsushirô’s affair is revealed, providing comic relief. The battle is ultimately won by the villagers, leaving three surviving samurai, who are left to observe the villagers planting their next rice crop. It is perhaps the first film to depict action scenes in slow motion.
While he delineates duty and honor which are essential components of samurai tradition Kurosawa masterfully weaves underlying strands of self-interests and exploitation of the weaker by more larger or powerful: he composed his shots to emphasize these group dynamics, and Seven Samurai is a textbook study of the director’s signature techniques. His masterly use of telephoto lenses to compress action, delineate character relationships, and intensify motion, the film shall serve as a benchmark in cinematic art. While the climactic battle against raiding thieves remains one of the most breathtaking sequences ever filmed.
This film is over 3 hours in length but it moves at a brisk pace. The first half builds the charachters and sets the situation while the 2nd half is pure action.
Ack:Jeff Shannon,G. Merritt
Similar Movies
The 47 Ronin, Part 1 (1941, Kenji Mizoguchi)
The 47 Ronin, Part 2 (1941, Kenji Mizoguchi)
The Professionals (1966, Richard Brooks)
Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto (1955, Hiroshi Inagaki)
Samurai 2: Duel at Ichijoji Temple (1955, Hiroshi Inagaki)
The Sword of Doom (1967, Kihachi Okamoto)
The Wild Bunch (1969, Sam Peckinpah, Paul Seydor)
The Samurai Trilogy (1954, Hiroshi Inagaki)
The 13th Warrior (1999, John McTiernan)
Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972, Kenji Misumi)
Movies with the Same Personnel
Throne of Blood (1957, Akira Kurosawa)
The Hidden Fortress (1958, Akira Kurosawa)
Yojimbo (1961, Akira Kurosawa)
Stray Dog (1949, Akira Kurosawa)
Drunken Angel (1948, Akira Kurosawa)
Rashomon (1951, Akira Kurosawa)
The Lower Depths (1957, Akira Kurosawa)
Sanshiro Sugata (1943, Akira Kurosawa)
Other Related Movies
is related to: Sanjuro (1962, Akira Kurosawa)
Samurai 7 [Anime Series] (2004)
influenced: Battle Beyond the Stars (1980, Jimmy T. Murakami)
has been remade as: The Magnificent Seven (1960, John Sturges)
The Seven Magnificent Gladiators (1984, Bruno Mattei) (ack:www.allmovie.com)
compiler: benny

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LSD was a lucky strike of Dr. Albert Hoffmann who was incidentally looking for a circulatory and respiratory stimulant. However, no real benefits of the compound were identified and its study was discontinued. This was in 1938. In the 1940’s, interest in the drug was revived because of its structural relationship to a chemical that is present in the brain. LSD was used as a research tool in studies of mental illness.

Sandoz Laboratories, the drug’s sole producer, began marketing LSD in 1947 under the trade name “Delysid” and it was introduced into the United States a year later. It was the time when Cold War swept across the globe. The CIA found it as an unconventional weapon to discredit their perceived enemies. After a blunder and its ensuing scandal made the CIA discontinue from further researches in this drug.
Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World, in the 1950s  became interested in psychedelic or mind-expanding drugs like mescaline and LSD, which he apparently took a dozen times over ten years. Sybille Bedford says he was looking for a drug that would allow an escape from the self and that if taken with caution would be physically and socially harmless.

He put his beliefs in such a drug and in sanity into several books. Two, based on his experiences taking mescaline under supervision, were nonfiction: Doors of Perception (1954) and Heaven and Hell (1956). Some readers have read those books as encouragements to experiment freely with drugs, but Huxley warned of the dangers of such experiments in an appendix he wrote to The Devils of Loudun (1952), a psychological study of an episode in French history.

In his book The Island he approved of the perfected version of LSD that the people of Island use in a religious way. (Ack: somaweb.org) The late Timothy Leary gave LSD its fame after being kicked out from Harvard University for using students and other volunteers to study the effects of LSD on the brain. He later became an advocate of the drug, promoting its “mind expanding qualities.” An icon of 1960s counterculture, Leary is most famous as a proponent of the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of LSD. He coined and popularized the catch phrase “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
He was one Voice of the Hippie movement,- and there were many other voices and influences that fed the growing cynicism of the young.  Drug culture of the sixties was amid the growing violence and unrest following escalation of US involvement in Vietnam and LSD that the very government had at first thought as an useful tool to repress the opposition, was just doing that:  LSD had become a subversive tool to overthrow the society and their culture.
Dr. Albert Hoffmann was a scientist whose yeoman work in finding an useful drug created history and shall be noted for wrong reasons.


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