Email to a friend
U. of I. cinema expert offers
commentary on new release of 'Seven Samurai'
Lynn, Humanities Editor
photo to enlarge
Desser, the director of U. of I.'s Unit for Cinema
Studies, is one of five film scholars featured
on a new DVD release of "Seven Samurai."
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —
A professor of cinema studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
is one of five film scholars weighing in on a new DVD release of “Seven
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 Sept. 5.
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.
photo to enlarge
scene from the new DVD release of "Seven
Samurai," which tells the story of 16th-century
Japanese villagers, who in desperation hire seven
Samurai warriors to protect them from invading
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.”
Desser said that while many DVD commentaries feature the director and/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.”