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Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa 
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Post Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
After reading MGamesCook post and realising that I have only seen "Seven Samurai" from him, then I decided to watch more from this legendary director. I already have "Yojimbo" and "Rashomon" waiting for me and I will write my opinion of these 3 movies soon. In the mean time, can anyone rank the best films of Kurosawa. In fact, any related opinion is appreciated

From wikipedia :

Quote:
Akira Kurosawa (March 23, 1910 – September 6, 1998) was a Japanese filmmaker. Regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema, Kurosawa directed 30 films in a career spanning 57 years.


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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
I'm certainly not an expert and have mostly seen his Samurai-themed films.

'Seven Samurai', 'Yojimbo' and 'Rashomon' are all excellent and must-sees for anybody with more than a passing interest in film. The first two are superbly entertaining action films, while 'Rashomon' is more of an intellectual pleasure.

I think that Kurosawa's last (?) movie 'Ran' is just as good as these three. It's a mix between King Lear and a Japanese legend and it is visually stunning. There are epic battle scenes, court intrigues and madness, but many people (not me) still find it a bit boring, because it's certainly on the slow side.

Another Shakespeare adaptation with Samurais is 'Throne of Blood', based on Macbeth. It's very good, but a bit, well, theatrical.

'Dersu Uzala' (1975) is something else entirely: It's a Soviet movie made at a time when Kurosawa's reputation in Japan had faded and he couldn't get any of his projects financed. (I believe his last movies ''Kagemusha' and 'Ran' were European-funded, too.) It's an adventure movie about a Russian explorer in Siberia, who befriends a local hunter. While the theme of civilisation vs. nature isn't all that original, it's a brilliant film in an unusual setting.

You might have read that 'Star Wars' is based on the Samurai film 'The Hidden Fortress' and there are a number of select elements, which George Lucas has lifted from it. 'Star Wars' is not a copy or adaptation of 'The Hidden Fortress', though, which I found okay without being enthusiastic about it.

'Sanjuro' is the sequel to 'Yojimbo' and it's very disappointing, particularly in the light of 'Yojimbo' being so good.


Fri Mar 13, 2015 8:27 am
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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
Of his films I've only seen: Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo, Kagemusha, and Ran.

Ran came out when I was a young adult and was too slow for my liking back then. Rashomon has not made the impression on me that it seems to have on others - it seemed too slow as well. I like/love all of the others. I think Yojimbo, The Hidden Fortress, and Seven Samurai would be in my top 50 favorites if I were to make a list.


Fri Mar 13, 2015 8:33 am
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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
Kurosawa was unquestionably a master of the cinematic form. His greatest works are very well represented, but I'd like to spotlight two of is lesser-known works: Stray Dog and High and Low. Both are moody, noirish works, and they are the kind of films that most directors would kill to have as their best work. For Kurosawa, they are usually regarded as second-tier. I think they are both every bit as good as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, etc.

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Fri Mar 13, 2015 8:53 am
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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
I'd go:
1) High and Low
2) Yojimbo
3) Kagemusha
4) Ran
5) Seven Samurai
6) The Hidden Fortress
7) Rashomon

as the best I've seen. I'm not a big fan of Ikiru, but a lot of other people are. Dreams is pretty, but the only other thing I remember is that Martin Scorsese meets Vincent van Gogh. It's one of only three films Kurosawa made after Ran. The other two, Rhapsody in August and Madadayo, I haven't seen and nobody seems to say much about them.

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Fri Mar 13, 2015 1:45 pm
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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
His 50s and 60s films have a speed and ebullience that can make even His Girl Friday seem slow (almost). His films have a sheer immediacy that differentiates him from everyone else of that period. Seven Samurai still stand out to me as his most accomplished work.

I think Hidden Fortress is one of the true pure masterpieces of entertainment, even if its narrative and structure arguably have flaws. Lucas lifted a lot from it to a point where Star Wars does come close, at times, to being a literal remake. But Kurosawa's camera is more mobile and fluid than Lucas's.

High and Low should be seen by everyone at least once. I doubt I'd rewatch it as much as his samurai films, because it does feel a bit padded and the first half is stagey.

I haven't seen Yojimbo in years, and am due for a rewatch. Throne of Blood is certainly more static than usual for him, but it's great in its own way. A very effective adaptation of Macbeth.

I'm not a fan of Kagemusha though, as I found it rather unintelligible. Ran is great in its own way, but extremely heavy and lacks the light magic of some of his earlier work I think. One I really dislike is Ikiru. I think that's essentially a misfire with an overly dramatic performance from Takashi Shimura that doesn't work at all.

Finally, Dersu Uzala was actually a favorite of mine, though it's been a long time since I watched it. But it struck me as his most underrated work. And Rashomon is great of course.

So unwind, I would recommend Rashomon, Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo, Throne of Blood, High and Low, and Dersu Uzala as my favorites.


Fri Mar 13, 2015 6:34 pm
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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
I have to admit I've only seen Yojimbo, which I enjoyed a lot. I really need to catch up with some of his most famous films.

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Fri Mar 13, 2015 9:55 pm
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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
I just rewatched Yojimbo for the first time in 7 years or so. It's certainly a western, and ranks among the best. I think Kurosawa must have taken a point or two from The Far Country, The Man from Laramie, and Rio Bravo. Like those films, Yojimbo ends in anti-climax. It's a study in low key plot development, and it's awesome. Tatsuya Nakadai is really great, and matches Toshiro Mifune.

Thief12 wrote:
I have to admit I've only seen Yojimbo, which I enjoyed a lot. I really need to catch up with some of his most famous films.


Seven Samurai is a must. Don't be deterred by the length, it's pretty riveting from beginning to end.


Fri Mar 13, 2015 10:58 pm
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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
Thanks everyone for your opinion and in particular MGamesCook who inspired this thread. I have in my possession:

Yojimbo , Hidden Fortress, Rashomon , Red Beard and Seven Samurai. I just ordered "Ran" in bluray and might get Throne of Blood , Dersu Ozala and High and low :-)

I will give my opinion as I watch them (I intent to re-watch "Seven Samurai" too)

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Sat Mar 14, 2015 2:14 am
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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
Yojimbo (1961) : 3 1/2 Stars
A smart and crafty ronin (the legendary Toshiro Mifune) comes to a village which has two bosses fighting for supremacy in feudal Japan. These two rival bosses try to hire the ronin as yojimbo (bodyguard) but Sanjuro (Mifune) has other idea lol. Kurosawa undercuts his film with some comical surrealism and if you have seen Leone's For a Fistful dollars (a western adaptation) probably you will not enjoy it to its fullest.
IMDB: 8.4 (from 61,617 votes)
RT: 97% (from 36 reviews)


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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
Some interesting facts about Akira Kurosawa

    He uses a wipe effect to fade from one scene to another an effect which later was used by George Lucas in the Star Wars trilogy. Another trademark is the use of weather to heighten mood, particularly rain.

    In 1952 won the honorary Oscar for Rashomon as outstanding foreign film

    His film Dersu Uzala won the 1975 Oscars as best foreign picture

    In 1990 won another Oscar (honorary) for cinematic accomplishments

    Made 16 films with Toshiro Mifune

    Seven Samurai went way over schedule and budget, and production was shut down at least twice but became the most successful film in Japan's history also picked by Empire Magazine (2008) as the greatest foreign-language film of all time.


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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
Interesting fact: Seven Samurai was cut down to 160 minutes for its USA release in 1956. But I can't find any information anywhere as to what was cut from the original at that time. If anyone knows anything, I'd be most interested.


Sat Mar 14, 2015 8:13 pm
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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
MGamesCook wrote:
Interesting fact: Seven Samurai was cut down to 160 minutes for its USA release in 1956. But I can't find any information anywhere as to what was cut from the original at that time. If anyone knows anything, I'd be most interested.


50 minutes were cut for Westerners audience according Kenneth Turan

Quote:
In artistic matters, as in everything else, length is relative. Clock­ing in at three hours and twenty-seven minutes, Seven Samurai was to be the most popular—and longest—film of director Akira Kurosawa’s extensive career, but that didn’t stop it from making people uneasy. In fact, Toho Studios cut fifty minutes before so much as showing the film to American distributors, fearful that no Westerner would have the stamina for its original length.

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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
unwindfilms wrote:
MGamesCook wrote:
Interesting fact: Seven Samurai was cut down to 160 minutes for its USA release in 1956. But I can't find any information anywhere as to what was cut from the original at that time. If anyone knows anything, I'd be most interested.


50 minutes were cut for Westerners audience according Kenneth Turan

Quote:
In artistic matters, as in everything else, length is relative. Clock­ing in at three hours and twenty-seven minutes, Seven Samurai was to be the most popular—and longest—film of director Akira Kurosawa’s extensive career, but that didn’t stop it from making people uneasy. In fact, Toho Studios cut fifty minutes before so much as showing the film to American distributors, fearful that no Westerner would have the stamina for its original length.


From indiwire
Quote:
There's a number of different versions of the film, but the original is now (finally) widely available.
Given that Kurosawa's original cut was 207 minutes long, it's unsurprising that it got trimmed down significantly. The director's version only played major cities in Japan, with a shorter version playing second- and third-run theaters in the country. The film was re-edited for the Venice Film Festival with the second half remaining mostly untouched, while the first was cut substantially, leading some to complain that the film was confusing, a charge that Kurosawa agreed with. Nevertheless, he still won the Silver Lion for Best Director. When taking it abroad, Toho cut a full 50 minutes off, fearing it that it would be too long for U.S. audiences, and the longer version took a surprisingly long time to resurface. In 1991, a 190 minute version was theatrically released in the U.K., and a 203-minute cut finally made it to the U.S. in 2002. Soon after, the Criterion Collection finally released the original cut on DVD, with a digitally-remastered version following in 2005, and a Blu-ray in 2010.


Probably costed it to win the Oscar for best foreign film that year


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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
Rashomon (1950) : 3 3/4 stars
Rashomon (main gate to the castle’s outer grounds) is another acclaimed collaboration between Director Akira Kurosawa and his favourite actor Toshiro Mifune. It uses a ground breaking narrative structure that explores reality Vs perception about the murdering of a husband and wife's rape in the Heian period (794-1184). The film is B&W and 4:3 format , sometime a bit confusing but definitely enthralling . In general I found the film very artistic and intellectual but not very entertaining for my taste. You can find an interesting essay of Kusorawa himself about Rashomon here
IMDB : 8.4 (from 85,708 votes)
RT: 100% (from 49 reviews)


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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
High and Low (1963) : 3 1/2 stars
Can Kurosawa make a very good Non- Samurai film.? Oh yeah! This noirish film surprised me quite a bit as a very thrilling detective story . Not only Mifune is very good as usual but also the rest of the cast. It contains some great scenes and maintains the suspense for a 2 hours 23 minutes movie but I only felt the social commentary a bit too much , at times, for my taste (the original translated tittle is heaven and hell)
RT: 93% (from 15 reviews)
IMDB: 8.4 (from 15, 566 votes)


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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
I remember liking The Seven Samurai very much, and I own the Criterion Collection Blu Ray, but I am afraid that if I watch it again, it won't match up to what I remember it, seeing as Red Beard and Tokyo Story (which is Ozu, not Kurosawa) bored me to tears. I did like Ran though, as well.

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Fri Mar 27, 2015 5:42 am
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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
Ran (1985) 3 1/4 Stars
No Mifune ? No worries ! Remember Tatsuya Nakadai (The samurai with a pistol in Yojimbo and/or the detective chief in high and low) well you will not physically recognise him here as Great Lord Hidetora but his acting is superb. Ran (translates subversion and/or chaos) is an adaptation of the Shakespeare tragic play of "King Lear" placed this time in medieval Japan and with the King (Great lord in this case) retiring and passing his dominion to sons instead of daughters. One thing I learned from watching this film is that if you are powerful and wants to retire then do it clearly by going fishing and enjoying life, do not go to a semi-retired status and leave most of the power to spoiled sons lol. It contains colourful epic battles but the foolishnesses and tragedy displayed here not my cup of tea of entertainment.
RT = 93% (from 65 reviews)
IMDB = 8.3 (from 66,400 votes)


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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
Kurosawa Filmography

    1993 Madadayo
    1991 Rhapsody in August
    1990 Dreams
    1985 Ran
    1980 Kagemusha
    1975 Dersu Uzala (as Akira Kurosava)
    1970 Dodes'ka-den
    1970 Song of the Horse (TV Movie documentary)
    1965 Red Beard
    1963 High and Low
    1962 Sanjuro
    1961 Yojimbo
    1960 The Bad Sleep Well
    1958 The Hidden Fortress
    1957 Donzoko
    1957 Throne of Blood
    1955 I Live in Fear: Record of a Living Being
    1954 Seven Samurai
    1952 Ikiru
    1951 Hakuchi
    1950 Rashomon
    1950 Shûbun
    1949 Stray Dog
    1949 The Quiet Duel
    1948 Drunken Angel
    1947 One Wonderful Sunday
    1946 No Regrets for Our Youth
    1946 Asu o tsukuru hitobito
    1945 Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi
    1945 Sanshiro Sugata II
    1944 Ichiban utsukushiku
    1943 Sanshiro Sugata
    1941 Uma (some scenes, uncredited)


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Last edited by unwindfilms on Sat Jul 25, 2015 9:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Mon Apr 06, 2015 7:14 am
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Post Re: Director Spotlight : Akira Kurosawa
Seven Samurai (1954) : 4 Stars
3 hours 27 minutes running time? No worries! You will enjoy it until the last second !! This is a well paced masterpiece which blends philosophy with entertainment seamlessly , with a superb score that helps to set the tone of each scene and last but not least great acting. Kurasawa directed, edited and co-write it. Toshiro Misune ( Kikuchiyo ) is great providing most of the comic relief , Takashi Shimura (Kambei Shimada) plays the Samurai leader with great war tactics very well and the other Samurai are great too with different roles. The story is very well known as it has been copied many times : A village of farmers under constant raids from bandits and with not hope of help from the government then decide to hire a band of samurai to help them to defend their crops.
IMDB: 8.7 (from 198,741 votes)
RT : 100% (from 57 reviews)


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