Last week, I made mention here of Kurosawa and his Seven Samurai. Now I just have to say that this is a film that should be viewed by teams in preseason. Forget about Gladiator and Braveheart - mere pretenders. This one is in the top 5 all-time and has all the action that you won’t find in Citizen Kane and Casablanca. It’s too bad that neither the Raptors, or quite likely you yourself will ever take me up on that recommendation. Yes it’s three-and-a-half hours long. Yes it’s black and white. Yes - subtitles too. But still, beyond the brilliant use of camera movement and deep focus, beyond the insane choreography of the battle scenes, beyond the perfect compositions, there is a story of complexity about men of various talents and backgrounds coming together, making sacrifices, and accomplishing something a higher purpose. The seven characters themselves range from the cagey vet-type, to the superstar-type, the green rookie-type, all the way to the clownish showboat and the coach, who must maintain a balance between all of them, as well as among themselves and the farmers. They all need to somehow work together to beat the odds, and not a frame of it resembles a cliche. Here is a large franchise all working on the same page, all brought to life from somewhere in 16th Century Japan. When there’s nothing else but the WNBA, this makes for a hell of a cathartic substitute to pure ball.
One particular scene surrounding two characters echoes some of what went on with the Raptors last season, and likely every other team in the NBA. You’ve got Kikuchiko, who was the seventh and last Samurai tentatively chosen to help defend a village of farmers: he comes from the ranks of the farmer himself and in his character lies the tension between the two groups. He is somewhat desperate to be seen as a proven Samurai warrior. He carries the biggest sword and his actions are full of bravado. And then there is the master swordsman Kyuzo. When the group discovers that the bandits they hope to bring down one by one, possess three guns, their plans to defend their fortress become a little dicey. It is Kyuzo who quietly walks out into the night, and all on his own disarms one of the sure-shot bandits, returning in the morning with a gun to much praise and adoration which he barely acknowledges. Kikuchiko grows envious, and self-assuredly he heads into the encampment of the bullying marauders himself. He is able to take one of the guns as well, but it is not in his character to do so with the stealth that is necessary, and the bandits answer the sound of alarm and chase him back to the fortified village, where fighting ensues with some tragic results for the unprepared samurai and villagers. Old Kambei, the leader, and by all rights the coach, lays into Kikuchino for acting on his own, reminding him that they all need to work together and not for their own selfish means. And so we see two characters achieving the same thing, but for different reasons and with differing results. It almost works as a way to look at the Jose/TJ scenario doesn’t it? Although Kikuchino, in spite of his mucking things up, is given the chance to eventually prove himself as a true warrior, something which TJ was never going to get here, at least with the bulk of the fans. And TJ did begin with as much of a pedigree as a starter and a star as Jose did, if not moreso, but his need to prove himself arose when he felt his pedigree had been tarnished when Milwaukee chose to disregard it entirely.
Anyway, it looks like the next challenge that might have found some form of expression in Kurosawa’s masterpiece, will be among the three big men with very different natures and abilities. If they can stand strong together the season might bring a few epic battle scenes worthy of Kurosawa’s scripts. By the time the season ends, a planned remake of the Seven Samurai should be released. You’ll want to do what you can to check out the original first.