This fall’s must-see museum adventure for families will be LACMA’s Samurai: Japanese Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection, which opens on October 19 and runs through February 1, 2015.
Advance ticketing will be required and is available on September 17.
What can you expect of the show? The coolest armor. Ever. A peek back into Japan’s fearsome warrior past. And awesome Halloween costume ideas.
LACMA’s website copy says it best:
Travel back in time and discover remarkable objects that illuminate the life, culture, and pageantry of the samurai, the revered and feared warriors of Japan. The Samurai Collection of Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, one of the finest and most comprehensive collections in the world, presents a treasure trove of battle gear made for high-ranking warriors and daimyo (provincial governors) of the 14th through 19th centuries. The exhibition illustrates the evolution of samurai equipment through the centuries, featuring more than 140 objects of warrior regalia, with full suits of armor, helmets and face guards, weapons, horse trappings, and other battle gear.
During the centuries covered by the exhibition, warfare evolved from combat between small bands of equestrian archers to the clash of vast armies of infantry and cavalry equipped with swords, spears, and even matchlock guns. Arms and armor were needed in unprecedented quantities, and craftsmen responded with an astonishingly varied array of armor that was both functional and visually spectacular, a celebration of the warrior’s prowess. Even after 1615, when the Tokugawa military dictatorship brought an end to battle, samurai families continued to commission splendid arms and armor for ceremonial purposes. Because the social rank, income, and prestige of a samurai family were strictly determined by the battlefield valor of their ancestors, armor became ever more sumptuous as the embodiment of an elite warrior family’s heritage.
We’re gearing up for the big show by thinking about samurai films. There are hundreds, so where to begin? Every single critic lists Seven Samurai at the top. The film is widely considered to be revered director Akira Kurisowa’s masterpiece, a piece of art that exerted significant influence on American culture – from the western genre, to the inspiration for Star Wars, to A Bug’s Life. The film has a 207 minute running time, subtitles, and was shot in black and white… but if you’ve ever needed an excuse to sink into one of cinema’s finest, LACMA’s show is it. N.B. The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film in 2010.
Here is a Common Sense review, which recommends the film for kids over 13. It is a violent film, and yet the point of the story, per the genre, is duty and man’s role in society. As one critic noted: “Sometimes you watch an old movie and think, “This seems like one cliche after another.” Then you realize that when the movie came out, those things weren’t cliches yet. Seven Samurai is packed with such innovations — and yet, even by modern standards, it’s more layered and intelligent than the average action flick. This type of movie is now often rather silly, but you can see how it started out as more than that.” (Eric D. Snider )
For those who’ve mastered the Seven Samurai, here’s the British Film Institute’s Top Ten, for good measure. [Some critics give The Last Samurai (yes, with Tom Cruise) high-marks for historical accuracy and visual splendor, FYI.]