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#043 Akira Kurosawa: Seven Samurai vs. The Most Beautiful

Download MP3 In today's episode Nate and Austin compare Akira Kurosawa's best and worst rated films, Seven Samurai (1954) and The Most Beautiful (1944), respectively. Nate yields to the Japanese propaganda, Austin prefers Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior, and they both philosophize the use of black and white. Check back next Sunday at 7pm PST where we will compare Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Buddy Buddy (1981), his best and worst rated films.
Also check out this interview with Akira Kurosawa and his message to aspiring filmmakers:

The Most Beautiful Notes

Worst Rated

PLOT: The film depicts the struggle for the workers at a lens factory to meet production targets during World War II. They continually drive themselves, both singly and as a group, to exceed the targets set for them by the factory directors.
  • Ratings: IMDb 5.8 | RT N/A C / N/A A
  • Released: 1944
  • Director: Akira Kurosawa (Yojimbo, Rashomon, Ran)
  • Writer(s): Akira Kurosawa
  • Cinematographer: Joji Ohara (The Munekata Sisters, Portrait of Madame Yuki, Kisses)
  • Notable actors: Takashi Shimura
  • Budget: N/A
  • Box office: N/A
  • Fun Facts:
    • Akira Kurosawa married actress 'Yoko Yaguchi' (born Kiyo Kato), who played Tsuru in "The Most Beautiful," after becoming close through many famed arguments during filming. They married on May 21, 1945 while Yaguchi was two months pregnant, and stayed together until her death in 1985.
    • In order to save film during wartime, the Japanese government ordered films to be released to have no opening titles and thus giving no credit to most of the actors or workers on each film. This included "The Most Beautiful" (1944).

Seven Samurai Notes

Best Rated

PLOT: A poor village under attack by bandits recruits seven unemployed samurai to help them defend themselves.
  • Ratings: IMDb 8.7 | RT 100% C / 97% A
  • Released: 1954
  • Director: Akira Kurosawa (Yojimbo, Rashomon, Ran)
  • Writer(s): Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Ogunia (screenplay)
  • Cinematographer: Asakazu Nakai (Ran, Ikiru, Throne of Blood)
  • Notable actors: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Keiko Tsushima, Minoru Chiaki
  • Budget: $1.1 million (125 million yen)
  • Box office: $2.36 million (268 million yen)
  • Fun Facts:
    • Akira Kurosawa's original idea for the film was to make it about a day in the life of a samurai, beginning with him rising from bed, eat breakfast, go to his master's castle and ending with him making some mistake that required him to go home and kill himself to save face. Despite a good deal of research, he did not feel he had enough solid factual information to make the movie. He then pitched the idea of a film that would cover a series of five samurai battles, based on the lives of famous Japanese swordsmen. Hashimoto went off to write that script, but Kurosawa ultimately scrapped that idea as well, worrying that a film that was just "a series of climaxes" wouldn't work. Then, producer Sôjirô Motoki found, through historical research, that samurai in the "Warring States" period of Japanese history would often volunteer to stand guard at peasant villages overnight in exchange for food and lodging. Kurosawa then came across an anecdote about a village hiring samurai to protect them and decided to use that idea. Kurosawa wrote a complete dossier for each character with a speaking role. In it were details about what they wore, their favourite foods, their past history, their speaking habits, their reaction to battle and every other detail he could think of about them. No other Japanese director had ever done this before.
    • Akira Kurosawa designed a registry of all 101 residents of the village, creating a family tree to help his extras build their characters and relationships to each other.
    • After months of research, all of the seven major characters in the film wound up being based on historical samurai.
    • This was the first film on which Akira Kurosawa used multiple cameras, so he wouldn't interrupt the flow of the scenes and could edit the film as he pleased in post-production. He used the multiple-camera set-up on every subsequent film.
    • Early in the writing process, six of the samurai were conceptualized, all loosely based on historic figures. For example, Kyuzo was based on Miyamoto Musashi, one of the most famous samurai who ever lived. Originally Toshirô Mifune was meant to play Kyuzo, the extremely stoic master swordsman. However, Akira Kurosawa and his collaborating writers decided that they needed a character they could more identity with who wasn't a fully-fledged samurai, so Kikuchiyo was created. Since Kikuchiyo didn't have a historic basis, Mifune was allowed to do an unprecedented (for a Kurosawa film) amount of improvisation in the part.
    • This film is often described as the greatest Japanese film ever made, including by well-known Japanese film historian Donald Richie and by "Entertainment Weekly", in its list of The 100 Greatest Films of All Time. Interestingly, despite its widespread commercial popularity, it was not particularly highly regarded by Japanese critics at the time of its release (the early 1950s is now regarded as a sort of Golden Age of Japanese cinema).
    • Akira Kurosawa's ancestors were samurai, roughly up to 100 years before he made this film.
    • The simultaneous production of this film and Godzilla (1954) nearly forced Tôhô Kabushiki Kaisha--the production company--into bankruptcy.

  Intro music: Calm The Fuck Down - Broke For Free / CC BY 3.0  

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