Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai remains a perennial critical and popular favorite. Set in the late 1580’s in Japan, a group of farmers hires seven masterless samurai to defend their village from bandits.
The three-hour masterpiece is streaming on Netflix right now. Apparently Criterion or somebody else is going to release a new, remastered collection of Kurosawa’s work. Most of his catalogue is streaming. Snow day off work? Time to revisit Kurosawa.
I find his films take on the complexity and ambivalence of violent behavior quite truthfully, for a fictional medium. Additionally his post-war films become a long consideration of Japanese identity both during and after American occupation. All ripe territory for my minor obsession, the poetics of annihilation.
The impassioned speech in this clip speaks to the consequences of war. The film’s historical moment : ongoing lawless strife. The farmers ~ that nourishing class ~ besieged by the process of violence again and again become animals …
… how one pop song woven of samples pierced the culture of mass distraction in ’85.
19 was relief to the relentless call to party in the shadow of the Russian arsenal. A live round between A-Ha’s Take On Me, anything by Wham, Don’t You Forget About Me from the Breakfast Club soundtrack.
I was fourteen. The cultural two-step to the malls was underway, the towering hair of popular music. Kids like me hid in runaway apartments ran rooftops crawled sewer tunnels quoted Dostoevsky chainsmoked and ridiculed the jocks who later suited up to join the ruling class.
I remained silent, a vessel for collected projections, a good girl running with the wrong crowd. Let them think what they want to, they will anyway. Show up, do as your told. Sneak out, dance until dawn, blue nail polish, kabuki makeup. Cultural material like this gave me fuel for endurance, relief from Reagan’s mantras of lies.
How could people believe Reagan? He was so fake. Lie after lie, emptying VA hospitals and declaring everybody cured. Then they’d turn up on your street corner crazy as ever. Did people have eyes? Apparently not, they re-elected him. We had to live in the shadow of our missiles and their missiles.
When everybody’s lying, the truth shines. Even when a thief makes it.
Hardcastle sampled Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells ~ well, that’s what a court later decided. The narration about the war was lifted from an ABC documentary film. The narrator, Peter Thomas, was originally ambivalent about the use of his voice in the ‘song’.
19 peaked at #15 on the Billboard Top 100 charts. More telling of the cultural moment : 19 was US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play number-one single July 6, 1985 – July 13, 1985, replacing Madonna’s Into the Groove/Angel dance mix.