69 in this atmospherically most perfect of films much

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Unformatted text preview: ntion to the details and textures of life and things—that are the stylistic glories of the Japanese film. Based on a story by Akutagawa Ryûnosuke, Rashòmon recounts an incident set in ancient times involving a lord and his wife who, while journeying through a forest, are confronted and set upon by a bandit. At least two facts in the ensuing series of events are undisputed: the bandit violated the wife, and the husband was killed. Otherwise we are presented with a startling set of contradictory interpretations of what truly happened, as the story is told and retold through the eyes of the wife, the bandit, the dead lord (speaking through a medium), and a woodcutter who chanced to witness the incident. Depending upon which version one believes, the husband was killed in a duel with the bandit to uphold his wife’s honor, or he killed himself in mortification over the ravishment of his wife, or he was killed when incited to duel with the bandit by the wife after first seeking to disassociate himself from her behavior. Seven Samurai, an action film of enormous vitality, tells the story of a group of rònin, or masterless samurai, who are hired by a farming village in the sixteenth century to protect it against marauding bandits. It is one of the finest war films ever made, and as such it shows men in the most extreme circumstances faced with choices that must be irrevocably made —choices that openly, even brutally, call into question the most firmly held values and perceptions, however dimly sensed, relating to the meanings of their lives. Much of the humanism that forms the basis of the story is exemplified in the conduct in life and in death of the last samurai (really a peasant masquerading as a warrior), who is played in a grandly swashbuckling manner by Mifune Toshirò (1920–97), the quintessential Kurosawa hero. But Seven Samurai is much more than simply a war film. It is a visually and aesthetically magnificent work of art presented in a setting that, in the most ve...
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