A+ The Seven Samurai, Stanford, Saturday through the following Friday. If you think all action movies are mindless escapism, you need to set aside 3½ hours and watch Kurosawa’s epic masterpiece. The basic story–a poor village hires warriors to defend them against bandits–has been retold many times since, but Kurosawa told it first and told it best. This is an action film with almost no action in the first two hours. But when the fighting finally arrives, you’re ready for it, knowing every detail of the people involved, the terrain that will be fought over, and the class differences between the peasants and their hired swords. One of the greatest movies ever made. For more on this masterpiece, see Kurosawa Diary, Part 10: Seven Samurai.
B+ Hair, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 5:30. The original “tribal love-rock musical” was plotless, depended on audience participation, and was pretty much unfilmable. So screenwriter Michael Weller and director Milos Forman created their own story for the songs, the characters, and the time. One of the best films about the late 1960’s counterculture—perhaps because in 1979, the whole bizarre thing could be viewed with both perspective and nostalgia. And the songs are great.
Bye Bye Birdie, Pacific Film Archive, Friday, 8:30. I have very vague memories of seeing this 1963 musical comedy, inspired by the Elvis mania of the 1950s, as a child. I’m not going to even guess if it’s any good. I suspect it’s a view of rock and roll for the first generation to be bewildered and slightly offended by it. I do know the movie was originally released in 4-track magnetic sound, and that the 35mm print the PFA will present somewhat recreates that in Dolby Stereo. Part of the series, The Kids Are Alright: Post-Fifties Musicals and the Rise of Youth Culture.