My Favorite Movie
I’ve seen hundreds of movies. Hundreds of hundreds. Good movies, bad movies, far too many indifferent movies, and a (relatively) few great movies. When you’re talking great movies, when it comes down to, say, listing the ten greatest, it’s pretty hard to separate the ten best from the thirty best. In the end it all comes down to personal taste and the sense of connection that you as an individual has to great art.
Having said that, it’s not very hard at all for me to pick my all-time favorite movie. It’s SEVEN SAMURAI, hands down. I saw it early on when I was in high school, maybe tenth grade, on television, of course, because that’s all there was back then except for revival houses and where I lived there was no such thing. I had to wait years before I saw it again, and I was just as deeply enthralled though I understood it a little better, because that movie itself set me on my pathway studying different cultures, which basically what made me what I am today. So, SEVEN SAMURAI is to blame.
Much like LORD OF LIGHT was the first great book that I ever read, SEVEN SAMURAI was probably the first really great movie that I ever saw. By really great, I mean that it utterly awed me and moved me on so many levels that it’s hard to explain. Like LORD OF LIGHT as a novel, it’s a movie I can endlessly revisit and still metaphorically sit at its feet and like, a beloved old master, it can still teach me things about the art of story-telling.
What makes it so great? Two main things: the way it was made and the context in which it was made.
I’ll briefly discuss the context, first. SEVEN SAMURAI was made by Kurosawa (who I believe was the greatest movie maker in the world. SEVEN SAMURAI was not a one-shot. I’d probably put at least three of his movies in my top ten.) in 1954, nine years after Japan suffered a totally crushing, humiliating, devastating defeat. Their society as a whole was turned on its head. Customs and mores were changing along with a social structure that had been in place for hundreds of years. This could have been a bitter, tragic story, but at the hands of Kurosawa and his crew became a tale of sacrifice, courage, loyalty, and great loss, but in the end, even as the last image is the graves of the samurai who died fighting for villagers they barely even knew, it’s oddly optimistic and up-lifting and still makes me misty-eyed as I think and write about it.
As to how it was made, well, Jesus, what’s not to like? Beautifully realized characters, even in an multi-member ensemble cast which is perfectly balanced and illuminated with amazing little snippets of dialog, action, and just minor business like pointing a flower and shaking it at someone. Wonderful acting. Excellent script. Superb direction and set dressing. Small-scale but nonetheless epic battle scenes. The final confrontation in the rain remains one of the best fight scenes ever put on film. Toshiro Mifune’s final scene is worthy of comparison to battle sequences in THE ILIAD.
In the end, SEVEN SAMURAI tells a story that deserves to live forever, and probably will.
Now, this part of the blog is just to see who’s paying attention. I’ve got just enough time to polish this off, post it, then head out for a book signing. The usual suspects will be there to sign their own and a couple of WILD CARD books, among them some extra copies I have of ACES AND JOKERS, which are destined for eBay. I’ll be getting at least seven signatures.
But one of these copies of ACES AND JOKERS (my gaming book for Green Ronin, which is basically an encyclopedia of about 350 characters — not, alas, the main 75 or so; they were covered in the previous book) is destined, gratis, for the lucky Wild Card fan who responds here in the comment section with the correct answer to the following trivia question:
What is the name of Brennan’s roshi?
But hold on, there’s more.
Post your answer even if someone beats you to the gun. I’m going to take all the correct responders up until, say, Monday, noon, Mountain Time, and toss their names in a pot. I’m going to make this give-away feature a regular thing on CM, and ALL those who answer the trivia question right will get a second-time opportunity to win some swell sag, gratis, and who doesn’t like to get swell swag for free? I certainly do.
Happy Holidays, all.