Director: Akira Kurosawa. Cast: Toshirô Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Isao Kimura. 207 min. War. Japan.
Is an uneducated person like me allowed to even admire such a classic? And where do I start? The film's engaging story? Mifune's incredible tragic/comedic performance? Kurosawa's meticulous plotting of the smallest details? Shimura's awe-inspiring Ben Kenobi-like presence? Or the film's audacity to delve into some very modern social concepts, while the setting is in the 1600s? A few words from Ebert should give an idea about the enormity of such a masterpiece:
"... This was the first film in which a team is assembled to carry out a mission--an idea which gave birth to its direct Hollywood remake, "The Magnificent Seven," as well as "The Guns of Navarone," "The Dirty Dozen" and countless later war, heist and caper movies. Since Kurosawa's samurai adventure "Yojimbo" (1960) was remade as "A Fistful of Dollars" and essentially created the spaghetti Western, and since this movie and Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress" inspired George Lucas' "Star Wars" series, it could be argued that this greatest of filmmakers gave employment to action heroes for the next 50 years, just as a fallout from his primary purpose.
" ... Shimura's Kambei is the veteran warrior, who in an early scene shaves his head to disguise himself as a priest in order to enter a house where a hostage is being held. Did this scene create the long action-movie tradition of opening sequences in which the hero wades into a dangerous situation unrelated to the later plot?"
Nuff said. Sometimes there are movies out there, you feel embarrassed to have called yourself a cinephile before you'd seen them.
(PS: So this is where Star Wars' "rolling" scene cuts came from!)