October 23, 2002

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'Seven Samurai'
Oct. 35-31, Castro Theatre

COUNTLESS RIP- offs and homages later, the plot of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is still beautiful in its simplicity: A village of farmers is under constant attack from bandits. They hire seven ronin to protect them from further pillaging, even though the citizens are almost as petrified of the samurai as they are of the brigands. Harvest time comes, and the thieves return to plunder. All hell breaks loose. Even if you haven't spent time with Kurosawa's masterpiece recently, chances are your memory can call up various ingrained moments: the first appearance of head samurai Takashi Shimura, getting his head shaved before rescuing a child; the young apprentice spotting his androgynous true love in a flower patch; the chaotic mud-splattered battle scenes; Toshiro Mifune's unhinged Kabuki performance, closer to a scratching, grunting simian than a Homo sapien. But it's the director's legendary use of space and framing that transforms the movie from a mere Ford-ian tribute to one of the cinema's major achievements, transposing Western conventions to Eastern ideology and introducing the West to epic Eastern storytelling. Despite what your memory might insist, Samurai isn't a wide-screen film (it was shot squarely in 1:33); like all of the director's works, however, it is undoubtedly a big-screen film, and the perfect cap to the Castro's three-week retrospective of Kurosawa-Mifune collaborations. See Rep Clock for show times. (David Fear)