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Samurai simply stunning cinema

Marty Schroeder | Tuesday, May 1, 2007

There comes a time in every man’s life when he realizes that only his friends read what he writes and everyone else … well, they just don’t care.

These are the life and times of an assistant scene editor at The Observer. Some people have devoted most of their college career to this paper, whereas I made out like a stowaway and jumped onboard only this year. The experience has been fun, heartwarming and all around scene-tastic. Working for the best, yet oft ignored section in the paper has made me realize that a good graphic goes a long way and not everyone will agree with you.

One of the foremost jobs of any Scene writer is to review DVDs. I’ve reviewed some good (“THX 1138,” “Patton”) and some bad (“Stick It,” “Night at the Museum”). That being said, there is one DVD I never reviewed, but wish I had. It is a Criterion release (read: “totally badass if you’re a nerd like I am”), and it comes from the one and only master of the samurai film – the oft-impersonated, never-duplicated Akira Kurosawa and his legendary “Seven Samurai.”

This three-disc set was given to me one Christmas, and it is one of the best gifts you could give a cinema buff – ever. The film is spread across two DVDs, restoring the flick to the glory it had when first released.

If you take an introductory course on filmmaking and then watch this film – your enhanced appreciation would make it like watching Pollack paint or Beethoven conduct. It is like watching a genius that has a knowledge of the cinema that moves beyond mere technicality and enters an arena that we call art.

As a disclaimer, I am going into what is called “auteur” theory in the biz of film studies, which – for those of you who know me – I think is mostly a load of horse dung.

Kurosawa, however, restores my faith that cinema can be masterfully done as both an art form in style and pleasurable in story. The samurai master not only composes and cuts shots together well, but he knows how to weave an engaging yarn that shifts from drama, to humor, to tragedy and all those little emotional nooks and crannies in between.

If I sound like a fan-boy, it’s because I am a fan-boy. The three-disc set of “Seven Samurai” may be one of the best DVD releases, well, ever. The people who run the Criterion Collection know what they are doing and have set the benchmark in film to DVD transfers.

My time at the Scene section of The Observer now comes to a close but I would like to leave The Observer with a few parting words.

In the immortal lines of Emmett “Doc” Brown, “And so, The Observer, I now say farewell and wish you Godspeed. You’ve been a good, kind and loyal friend to me, and you made a real difference in my life. I will always treasure our relationship and think on you with fond memories, warm feelings and a special place in my heart. Your friend in time, Marty Schroeder.”

Whoever knew I could write something so touching.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Marty Schroeder at

mschroe1@nd.edu