Akira Kurosawa

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Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998) was a famous Japanese director, mainly known in the West for his samurai films, such as Seven Samurai, Ran and Yojimbo. Other notable films include Rashomon, The Hidden Fortress, Throne of Blood, Ikiru, Dersu Uzala and Sanjuro.

Born on March 23, 1910, Kurosawa is widely considered one of the best and most important directors of the 20th century, Kurosawa made films that were very influential on many American and European film directors. They include George Lucas (the Star Wars series was heavily influenced by The Hidden Fortress), John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven is a direct remake of Seven Samurai) and Sergio Leone (A Fistful of Dollars is a direct remake of Yojimbo). His "Big Four" films (Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai and Ran) are often - if not always - included in lists of the best films of all time.

Excepting Ikiru, all of his films from 1948's Drunken Angel to 1965's Red Beard featured the actor Toshiro Mifune. In 1965, the two had a falling out during the production of Red Beard and did not speak or see each other until a brief, tearful reunion in 1993. There were rumors that they would have collaborated on Kurosawa's next film after his upcoming project After the Rain, but they both died within a year of each other, with Kurosawa dying before After The Rain began filming. After 1965, there were only a few times where one spoke ill of the other, but otherwise they thought of each other - and their films together - with high regard.

The other actor most identified with Kurosawa is Takashi Shimura. Shimura appeared in Kurosawa's first film, 1943's Sanshiro Sugata and appeared in every one of Kurosawa's films from Sanshiro Sugata to 1965's Red Beard except for The Lower Depths. Unlike Mifune, however, Kurosawa and Shimura never had a falling out and remained friends until Shimura's death in 1982. Kurosawa wrote a small role for his friend in 1980's Kagemusha, which was cut from the Western release of the film (but has since been added back on the Criterion Collection DVD).

Kurosawa's films are notable for being stunning visually, with beautiful backgrounds, sometimes verging on Scenery Porn. Try watching Ran and not falling in love with some of the shots, or considering it the most beautiful movie ever made.

Kurosawa passed away on September 6, 1998 at the age of 88.

Works created by Akira Kurosawa include:
  • Uma (1941)
    • Kurosawa's final production as an assistant director, and he also co-wrote and co-edited the film. Sometimes included in Kurosawa's filmography because he took over most of the production from his mentor and friend Kajiro Yamamoto. Often thought by some to be lost, it actually still exists in a presentable form and was shown in the United States in theaters in the 1980's. Its just awful difficult to find.
  • Sanshiro Sugata (1943)
  • The Most Beautiful (1944)
  • Sanshiro Sugata Part II (1945)
  • The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail (1945, not released until 1952)
    • Those last three were propaganda movies that Kurosawa and Shimura were forced to write, direct and star in (respectively) during World War Two despite the fact that both were pacifists. They didn't get wide release in America until the 2009 Criterion Collection box set AK100, mostly because after the war, Kurosawa saw them as an Old Shame (although they all remained in his filmography unlike Those Who Make Tomorrow).
  • No Regrets For Our Youth (1946)
  • Those Who Make Tomorrow (1946)
  • One Wonderful Sunday (1947)
  • Drunken Angel (1948)
  • The Quiet Duel (1949)
  • Stray Dog (1949)
  • Scandal (1950)
  • Rashomon (1950)
  • The Idiot (1951)
  • Ikiru (1952)
  • Seven Samurai (1954)
  • I Live in Fear (1955)
  • Throne of Blood (1957)
  • The Lower Depths (1957)
  • The Hidden Fortress (1958)
  • The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
  • Yojimbo (1961)
  • Sanjuro (1962)
  • High and Low (1963)
  • Red Beard (1965)
  • Dodesukaden (1970)
  • Dersu Uzala (1975)
  • Kagemusha (1980)
  • Ran (1985)
  • Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (1990)
  • Rhapsody in August (1991)
  • Madadayo (1993)
  • After the Rain (1999)
    • This film was written by Kurosawa and he planned on directing it, but his 1998 death put a stop to that. It was directed by his friend Takashi Koizumi, and many Kurosawa fans consider After the Rain to be as much a Kurosawa film as it is Koizumi's... which may be accurate, considering that Kurosawa's preproduction methods were as meticulous as Hitchcock's or Kubrick's. Another one of his scripts that he planned on eventually directing, The Sea is Watching, was made by another director in 2002.
  • Gendai oh Noh (planned for 2010, but official date TBA)
    • a documentary about Noh Theater that Kurosawa started while waiting for Ran to find funding. Gendai was promptly abandoned once Ran found funding, but Kurosawa always intended to finish it. In honor of the centennial of Kurosawa's birth, the film is being completed and will include Kurosawa's hour-plus of original footage