Stray Dog

I got the Blu-Ray of Seven Samurai yesterday, and spent most of last night rolling around in it like a pig in shit. It struck me that one sequence which gets generally overlooked—the consummation of Katsushiro and Shino’s relationship, and its aftermath—shows off Kurosawa’s skill as well as anything in the movie. At that point of the movie—three hours into it, the night before the climactic battle—it’s hard to believe Kurosawa is putting his forward thrust on hold while this little playlet acts itself out, but it’s filled with so many beautiful, psychologically right details that I never want to skip past it. The lovers’ bodies writhing in the infernal firelight, Shino’s sensuous post-coital countenance just before she spots her enraged father, the reflexive decency with which Kambei comes to her aid when Manzo begins beating his daughter (“Stop this brutality!”), the camera’s sudden leap behind Katsushiro when Kambei realizes that he’s the samurai Manzo is raving about, the onset of the rain, and finally the winnowing of the scene to its essentials: first the villagers, and then Kambei, and finally Manzo, all drifting away, until only the lovers are left, Shino sprawled in the mud, Katsushiro standing with bowed head in the downpour.

It also struck me how right Kurosawa was to emphasize the warriors’ grief and fatigue. Katsushiro “becomes a man” by sleeping with Shino, and the next day he reaches another level of maturity when he kills his first bandit (though the camera cuts away with such quickness that a first-time viewer might not even realize the significance what’s just happened), but he reaches his most important milestone at the very end of the battle. Aching to avenge Kyuzo’s and Kikuchiyo’s deaths, he can only run in hysterical circles until Kambei grabs him and says “All the bandits are dead!”—at which point he falls to his knees and sobs. His education is complete now, but he becomes a true samurai only by taking on the sorrow that’s been Kambei’s all along.

seven sam

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