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From 1960’s The Magnificent Seven to last month’s A Bug’s Life, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai has proved a bottomless reservoir of inspiration for Hollywood. Of course, the wily Japanese master had studied John Ford’s esterns before shooting this sweeping adventure picture about seven scruffy men—only six of them actually samurai (Toshiro Mifune as the wannabe is pictured)—who agree to defend a dusty little town from bandits. Made in 1954, three years after Kurosawa’s Rashomon introduced Japanese cinema to the world, this 200-minute movie inaugurated the director’s epic style: The film was shot with several cameras running so Kurosawa could choose from different angles of the same action; features operalike musical motifs for the major characters; and skillfully contrasts action and interlude, drama and comedy. Seven Samurai has been so widely imitated that it has no doubt lost a bit of its original impact, and its deglamorization of the relationship between samurai and peasant could never mean as much here as it did in Japan. Still, the film is widely influential and formally dazzling, as well as simply one of the best action flicks ever made. At the American Film Institute Theater, Kennedy Center. $6.50. (202) 785-4600. (Mark Jenkins)