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The Masterpiece – favorite martial art films pt.5

June 17, 2009

Part of a whole group of posts that occupy my time while I get back into jiu-jitsu shape. They have either a little bit to do with jiu-jitsu or not a whole lot. This one is a Bit Off Topic.

In my previous post on the subject of martial art movies, I wrote that I believe Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon to be the Greatest martial art film of all time.

If that’s the case then where does that leave Seven Samurai, the film I’ve selected for this post entry?

Where indeed.

Well, Seven Samurai fits nicely into what I concider to be a martial art movie.

And yet, it can’t just be a martial art movie. To call an Akira Kurosawa film a “martial art movie” is down right insulting to the man and his body of work.

Making its debut in 1954 Seven Samurai is clearly such an amazingly dated film. There’s no computer graphics. No slow motion scenes. No stereo surround sound. And, oh my, it’s in black and white!

Despite that it sparks to life like no other film on my list and has a juggernaut of a legacy beyond any movie with a Judo Chop or Karate Kick.

Case in point: there is a scene early in Seven Samurai, where the villagers are searching for help from samurai in a town. It is the point of view of the villagers looking at the passerbys on a busy road intercut with a shot of the villagers themselves.

If the casual movie-goer watches that scene, they will notice nothing because the way the scene is presented is something taken for granted in the movies of today. Seven Samuraiis over fifty years old, and in today’s internet entertainment age, it might as well be prehistoric. And yet, its storytelling technique can be seen now in almost every single movie.

Six years after the release of Seven Samurai, Hollywood comes out with a remake of the film entitled The Magnificent Seven. Though highly successful in America – spawning sequels and even a TV series – The Magnificent Seven feels flat and lifeless when viewed back-to-back against the original film.

By far, it is the oldest of my film selection and it is also the most deserving of my praise. More so than Enter the Dragon. Sorry, Bruce.

If Bruce’s film is a must-have for any martial art film library, then Kurosawa’s film is a must-have period. Whereas Enter the Dragon influenced future martial art movies and martial artists, Seven Samurai influenced a whole generation of filmmakers thereby changing the entire face of cinema.

I can easily say that all Kurosawa films easily move beyond their genre. It’s a testament to his genius and magical storytelling ability.

Seven Samurai is no different. It’s not just a martial art movie, it’s not just a film either.

It’s a masterpiece.

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