Another few mini-reviews of DVDs we've watched recently...
There seems to be a common theme, but it wasn't intentional. Japanese samurai culture and the American West have some similarities, especially in movie versions of history. However, the American West, contrary to so many portrayals of it, was really a brutal, and brief period. I'm not sure there was much chivalry or a formalized 'code of conduct', like there apparently was in the samurai era. If I wasn't interested in watching more movies right now, I'd continue this little essay. I'm sure somebody else has previously explored this topic, it is an insanely obvious one.
The Seven Samurai
This was the first Akira Kurosawa movie I ever saw, back in the days when the University of Texas film department was allowed to show classic cinema and was not expected to make a profit. In those days, long past, every night of the week, one had several choices of classic films to choose from, plus various other popular films, at a price of $2.50. Great deal. Saw so many movies then, it is a shame that the University changed their policy. In retrospect, I shouldn't have always gotten high before attending these films - I might remember more of the details.
Anyway, 7 Samurai is a masterpiece that I've seen at least 5 times, if not more. Still holds my interest every time.
Spectacular 'dark' comedy: Kurosawa 's samurai for hire flick. Two corrupt parties/groups are played off each other by a rootless samurai. As always, great cinematography, many shots are composed with great delicacy and beauty. I've netflixed Fist Full of Dollars, which is supposed to be a copy of this movie. In fact, somewhere I read that Fist Full of Dollars couldn't be released in the U.S. for quite some time due to copyright issues.
According to the Yojimbo wiki, or rather the A Fistful of Dollars wiki, Kurosawa successfully sued, so I guess my memory was correct. Not that Yojimbo is all yucks and light-hearted banter. There's plenty of drama here as well, and some sword fighting, in a sort of abstracted manner.
Fist full of Dollars is on my netflix list, btw
Sequel to Yojimbo, in spirit at least. Same lead actor, playing a similar 'lordless' samurai. Some brilliant scene compositions, especially the Camellia flowers in the stream signal.
Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
Yowsa. Not sure what I expected, but this was more. I couldn't stop imagining the smell of Alfredo Garcia's head, and of lead character Warren Oates' unshowered body. Passersby all turned in disgust. Peckinpah does like to fetishize murders - he must have been an interesting dinner companion. Could be seen as a homage to the Bogart movie, Treasure of Sierre Madre, especially since a character says he is Fred C. Dobbs.
The Wild Bunch
I wanted to like this more than I did. Perhaps in historical context, this movie was shocking: the mythology of the American West, as seen through the Hays Code led one to believe that the heroes were always upstanding citizens. In this movie, the outlaws are the protagonists, but then they aren't choir boys either. Not as unique anymore, and in fact seems a little dated in places. Still a good movie, just not the 'great' film I was led to expect via all the praise I've read. The final blood-drenched orgy of gunfire seems a little corny. The 4 Americans against 200 'ferriners' always bugs me.
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