I ruin ‘Seven Samurai’

on 32 Comments

My wife ordered Seven Samurai because it’s one of my all-time favorite movies and now and then she makes an effort to appreciate what I like. We watched it last night. The first half hour of the Kurosawa classic is taken up with the farmers’ pilgrimage to a provincial Japanese city to find some samurai to protect their village from bandits. It’s the late 1500s, and these ignorant farmers have no status; in the city they’re beneath drunks and layabouts. You think, there’s no way that these peasants can hire the most exalted figures in Japanese society, trained warriors, to risk their lives to save the village’s barley crop.

Kurosawa loves to dwell in sociological detail, and his portrayal of the farmers and the provincial city and the lives of the samurai is tremendous. As I say, it goes on for fully half an hour with a lot of drama, and when at last a noble old samurai agrees to take up the farmers’ cause, I turned to my wife and said, "The movie’s over."

I.e., the problem’s been resolved; we know the samurai are going to whip the bandits.

A few minutes later, my wife got up from the couch and said, "You ruined it," and went into the bedroom to read.

This morning she told me that after I declared the movie over, it lost its savor, it was just a masculine war movie. She said I had ruined several books and movies over the years. Lately I ruined Peter Carey (mannered). A few years ago it was The English Patient, and The Remains of the Day. It didn’t matter that subsequently I got into the English Patient, as a great lush romance; I could never get my wife back on it. She said that she actually trusts my opinions on some subjects, that I influence her. That surprised me. When you’ve lived together for a while, you sort of think your spouse takes your opinions for granted

I told my wife that she checked out before a great scene involving women/sex in the village and before the (re)entry of the most important character in the film, the wild drunken samurai played by Toshiro Mifune. Can we try again tonight? I don’t know, I have to think about it, she said. It’s not looking good.

32 Responses

  1. lohdennis
    August 14, 2010, 11:01 am

    It wasn’t by choice that Kurosawa primarily made movies centering on men. He himself said that movies about women were already so dominated by Kenji Mizoguchi and Mikio Naruse that there was no room for a third movie director. Mizoguchi and Naruse movies are, in many ways, even better than Kurosawa. Jean-Luc Goddard said about films: It’s Mizoguchi, Mizoguchi, and Mizoguchi”. Kurosawa has a great “woman” movie called “No Regrets for Our Youth”, 1946.
    I have most of Mizoguchi, Naruse, and Kurosawa DVD’s though not subtitled if you want to borrow from me. Many however are also available from the Criterion Collection.

    • Philip Weiss
      August 14, 2010, 11:11 am

      thanks Lohdennis, I might borrow. But when i tell me wife, she will go rent Mizoguchi mizoguchi mizoguchi

      • lohdennis
        August 14, 2010, 11:21 am

        Recommended movies:
        Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff, Life of Oharu, and Red Light District (all Mizoguchi)

        Flowing, Floating Clouds, “Daughter, Wife, Mother” (all Naruse)

        Personally, one of my favorite all-time favorite Japanese movie is “Kinkakuji or Conflagration” by Kon Ichikawa. Absolutely, the most incisive movie I have seen about “beauty” and “the human condition”.

      • Danaa
        August 14, 2010, 12:57 pm

        lohdennis – you have good taste. Now we have another reason to log into Mondoweiss – great (if somewhat esoteric) movie recommendations.

        Phil, if I may suggest another ruse to lure the wife back into the movie (assuming that the humoring you quota wasn’t filled yet) – you might want to mention that yes, there’s action aplenty – swords and all, and there are almost no women, but strangely enough, it’s action with certain feminine values built in – though one may need to really pay attention to see that. Those values, BTW, may not necessarily be all for the good (or the bad), but they are mixed with many shades of grey. Very seductive, that color (at least for some).

        If this works, you owe me one (and I always collect – being female and all).

    • lysias
      August 14, 2010, 11:18 am

      I was particularly impressed by Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu and Sansho the Bailiff. Are there any other of his movies that you particularly recommend?

    • thankgodimatheist
      August 14, 2010, 7:01 pm

      Talking about Godard, did you know he made a movie about the Palestinians called ‘Ici et ailleurs’ (Here and There) in 1976?
      Not many theatres were inclined to screen it..
      Some background:

      In light of the recent and ongoing conflict in the Middle East, but also the resurgence of politics in art, Ici et ailleurs appears to be in full renaissance. From art theory to political analysis, the film responds to an ever-present desire to re-evaluate images of war and their usage. Commissioned by the PLO in 1970 to make a film (the never-completed Jusqu’à la victoire), Godard and Gorin traveled to Jordan to shoot interviews in Palestinian refugee camps, but were forced to leave when violence escalated. By the year’s end most of their subjects had been killed in the Amman massacres, forever altering the existing footage. Eventually, Godard and Anne-Marie Miéville repurposed the footage, juxtaposing it, in a series of “here/there” dichotomies, with images of a French family, fashioning “a stunning reflection on the Palestinian resistance, on the political dimensions of sound and image, and on the failure of European radicalism after 1968. Ici et ailleurs is one of the greatest of all political films, achieving an extraordinary formal density with its layered images, sounds, and histories, as well as a political lucidity that remains all too relevant today” (Erik Ulman, senses of cinema) “A thoughtful and provocative essay…the results are a rare form of lucidity and purity” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader).
      link to cinemathequeontario.ca

  2. Taxi
    August 14, 2010, 11:07 am

    Have you tried tempting your wife with a freshly cooked bowl of millet as accompaniment to the movie?

    Here’s the recipe:

    1 cup of organic millet, roast in pan till you smell the nutty aromas.

    Add 3 cups of water and bring to boil, add a couple of pinches of salt.

    Add half cup of freshly grated organic corn and half a cup of diced organic onions.

    Simmer this mix on low heat for thirty minutes. Serve with meat/veg/fish dishes, which you can prepare while the millet is cooking.

    You’ll be surprised how clear-headed and ‘imaginative’ a bowl of millet can make one. Me not surprised at all that the millet-eating peasants presented a ‘sound and convincing’ argument to the samuri city dudes.

    • Mooser
      August 15, 2010, 9:39 am

      Good recipe, thanks!

      Anyway, that Japanese flick is just a rip-off of “The Magnificent Seven”
      Which was just a cut-rate “Dirty Dozen”.

    • pabelmont
      August 16, 2010, 9:12 pm

      7 sams was better than magnificent 7, whichever was the ripoff.

      BTW, for a differently remarkable movie, see “harakiri”. Out-of-work Sams didn’t have it all their own way. And a coverups were in operation then (as now).

      But, returning to MILLET in 7 Sams: It was presented as a disgusting food which the poor farmers had to eat, not being able to afford rice, which they fed to the 7 sams. One Sam said, roughly, “do they expect us to defend them on no food but this lousy rice?” and an older-and-wiser sam told him that this was precious food because the farmers had nothing but millet for themselves.

      So if you cook it, cook it the way the Japanese farmers cooked it. If you can. and not as a “foody”.

  3. DICKERSON3870
    August 14, 2010, 1:34 pm

    RE: “She [Lady Weiss] said that she actually trusts my opinions on some subjects, that I influence her.” – Nostril Weiss
    MY COMMENT: Pray tell, must the Weiss family always air it’s dirty laundry in public? Emily Post would be aghast!

    • DICKERSON3870
      August 15, 2010, 8:21 am

      RE: “…my wife got up from the couch and said, “You ruined it,” and went into the bedroom to read.” – Weiss
      “…Take it slow
      Take it easy on me
      And shed some light
      Shed some light on me please…”

      Feist – My Moon My Man (VIDEO, 03:41) – link to youtube.com

    • Mooser
      August 15, 2010, 9:47 am

      Dickerson, have a heart. When you are going through the things you should have gone through in your late teens, and the things you should have gone through with your first girlfriend, all in your middle fifties, it gets rough.
      Imagine being fifty and never failed? It must be terrifying! (That’s why nothing scares me, except a little fire, Scarecrow!)
      Maybe that’s why Phil is so devoted to bringing change to Israel and American-Israel relations.

      • DICKERSON3870
        August 16, 2010, 11:39 pm

        RE: “Dickerson, have a heart.” – Mooser
        MY COMMENT: I sympathize with the notion, but if I had a heart then I just wouldn’t be myself. I guess I’ll always be nuttin’ but a heartless bastard. Woe is me.
        Wim Wenders – Kings of the road (Im Lauf der Zeit) 1976 [VIDEO, 05:06] – link to youtube.com

  4. Citizen
    August 14, 2010, 2:31 pm

    Phil, my sister recommends this Korean rennovation of Hitchcock for you two to watch together. It’s called Mother: link to youtube.com

    Personally, I recommend this German-Austrian production about a small, remote village on the cusp of WW1, the White Ribbon: link to youtube.com
    I don’t think anything you may say during this movie will ruin it for your wife.

    • DICKERSON3870
      August 16, 2010, 11:57 pm

      RE: White Ribbon
      ALSO BY MICHAEL HANEKE: Caché(Hidden) 2005
      Winner of the Cannes Best Director Award, Michael Haneke’s psychological thriller centers on wealthy French couple Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Juliette Binoche), who begin receiving threatening videotapes and phone calls that threaten to ruin their relationship. Georges realizes who the perpetrator is but refuses to tell Anne. Yet childhood flashbacks reveal the mystery, a story that illuminates France’s damaged relations with Algeria.
      NETFLIX – link to netflix.com

  5. Eva Smagacz
    August 14, 2010, 3:25 pm

    One of the most superb films about Arab immigrants is the film called “Couscous” or “The secret of the grain” made in 2007 by Abdellatif Kechiche.

    Definately not for generation brought up on instant gratification of action movies, but delight for those curious about other people’s culture.

    Very apt for watching by married couples, it’s pace is slow and leisurely, the suspense is every growing, the minutae of the human interaction a delight for the wife, and the climactic belly dance by Hafsia Herzi a payoff for a husband.

    Worth every one of the awards it collected.

    • Taxi
      August 14, 2010, 4:14 pm

      I love ‘Secret of the Grain’. It’s on Netflix:
      link to netflix.com

    • David Samel
      August 14, 2010, 4:16 pm

      Eva – My wife and I loved this movie. Absolutely fascinating, with an unusually extended and brilliant climactic scene. Another thing we loved was how much of the movie appeared ad libbed with material that surely would have seen the cutting room floor in Hollywood. I’m quite pleased you recommended it. I should add that the movie takes place in southern France.

    • James North
      August 14, 2010, 4:27 pm

      Phil: I know your excellent wife, and I doubt she couldn’t figure out the plot on her own. I’m sure what made her get up and leave was that your incessant jabbering was spoiling the suspension of disbelief.

      • Mooser
        August 15, 2010, 9:49 am

        Or the fact that she knew that whatever she said would end up in this blog?
        I have made (as I’m sure you have noticed from my comments) protecting my wife’s privacy a sacred obligation. Especially after I found out she shot her first husband. (He lived, but limps badly.)

      • Philip Weiss
        August 15, 2010, 10:18 am

        mooser ive been trying to email you, will you email me at [email protected]

    • Citizen
      August 14, 2010, 5:12 pm

      Eva, did you see the White Ribbon? If so, how’d you like or dislike it? It’s definitely not for anybody loving the usual Hollywood movies. It’s about as contrary to that as one can get.

      • lohdennis
        August 14, 2010, 5:40 pm

        White Ribbon is an outstanding movie. One of the best modern movies to be made. Most of the children depicted in the movie are of the same age (within 10 years) of my wife’s paternal grandparents’ era, in the similar region. One really sees how it must have been like for some of her ancestors’ world.

    • thankgodimatheist
      August 14, 2010, 7:12 pm

      “One of the most superb films about Arab immigrants is the film called “Couscous””

      Oh, a great movie, Eva !! And a special mention to that scene where Hafsia Herzi demostrates her fabulous skills at bellydance..

      No seriously, it’s one of the best movies about immigration that I’ve ever seen..

  6. eshatter
    August 14, 2010, 4:42 pm

    The Secret of the Grain is an excellent movie and i highly recommend it.
    A Japanese director whose movies your wife (and maybe you) might like
    is Yasujiro Ozu. He made a lot of films in the 50’s and 60’s (he died in 1963)
    mostly about Japanese family life. The films move slowly but they are very
    rewarding. Some of the ones I remember are Tokyo Story, Late Spring,
    Early Summer, The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice, and there are many more.
    He has his camera at the level that a Japanese person would sit at a table and
    just lets the story unfold.

  7. Palmyra
    August 14, 2010, 5:25 pm

    See I have to fast forward at least to Mifune to get mine to watch it period. And then he usually falls asleep within the next hour or so. I think we’ve attempted to watch it ‘together’ about twenty times.

  8. alec
    August 15, 2010, 4:47 am

    Palestinians = farmers.
    Israelis = bandits.

    Where are the Samurai when you really need them?

    • potsherd
      August 15, 2010, 7:54 am

      On the wrong side, in the pay of the bandits.

      • Koshiro
        August 15, 2010, 5:00 pm

        That is an important point of the movie, by the way, and one which has some relevance to this site’s main topic: The bandits are actually of the same social class as the defenders. They are all Samurai, or more precisely Rônin, masterless warriors.
        In an analogy, the equivalents to the seven Samurai would be those Israelis who join the demonstrations at Bil’in and other places, who go against solidarity with their supposed peers because they would rather help those in need, no matter if they are “others” who they were educated to look down on.

  9. Mooser
    August 15, 2010, 9:57 am

    Oy, I’ve been reading all aboutsome poor guy in the Air Force who thinks that “splatting” Afghans and having illicit sex in hot tubs entitles him to lifetime support, when it hit me: There is a place for DADT (now that you can’t use in on misquitos), a good place for it!
    It works very well in matrimony, preserving the privacy of the wedded abyss.
    Read the linked story. It’s hilarious. If you don’t think it’s funny, Google a guy named Micheal Weinstein. From those people this pilot expected a fair shake?

  10. wondering jew
    August 16, 2010, 9:44 pm

    “Ikiru” is my favorite Kurosawa. And the topic of Japanese movies made me think of “Sayonara” with an exquisite performance by Brando.

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