David Desser, the director of
Illinois' Unit for
Cinema Studies, did a 40-minute audio-track commentary for
Criterion's new three-disc set of the Japanese classic and also
was interviewed extensively on-camera about the influence of the
movie on one of the set's documentaries. The new set was released
Desser is an expert on Asian cinema and on various film
genres, including horror, melodrama, science fiction, war and the
western. This is his second DVD commentary for Criterion. He did the
entire commentary for "Tokyo Story" a few years ago.
"Seven Samurai," made in 1954 and 210 minutes long, was restored
using high-definition digital transfer. It appears on the first two
discs, as do the new audio commentaries.
The third disc contains, among other things, the video
documentary, including the new on-camera interviews with the
scholar-commentators, who, in addition to Desser, are Joan Mellon,
Stephen Prince, Tony Rayns and Donald Richie.
A beloved movie epic, the film tells the story of 16th-century
Japanese villagers who in desperation hire seven Samurai warriors to
protect them from invading bandits. Philosophy, human emotions and
high action are woven into a tale of courage and hope.
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According to Desser, who is editor of the National Film
Traditions Series published by Cambridge University Press, "Seven
Samurai" is "undoubtedly one of the best, best-known and most
influential films of all time."
"And its director, Akira Kurosawa, is one of the most acclaimed
and respected of all directors," he said.
Desser said that while many DVD commentaries feature the director
or other members of the cast and crew, "Criterion has specialized in
a kind of ‘scholarly' approach, featuring academics and serious film
critics doing the commentary."
He believes that such an approach is likely to reach a "far wider
audience than merely students in film classrooms."
"Perhaps, also, the popularity of film courses over the years has
itself built an audience for the sort of scholarly approach
Criterion takes to the classic films they release."
The New York Times wrote that Criterion's new "Seven Samurai"
transfer is "a little miracle of digital technology."
of Illinois news release]