Akira Kurosawa

by Charlie from Newark

"A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet."


132846Akira Kurosawa映画の友 (Eiga no tomo) [Public domainMy hero is Akira Kurosawa. He was a Japanese film director and a screenwriter. Born on March 23, 1910, he was born into a wealthy family with samurai ancestry in Tokyo, Japan. His father encouraged him to watch Western films from a young age, and encouraged his interest in the arts. He then moved in with his older brother, Heigo, who further encouraged him to study films. During the 1920s, Heigo became a narrator for silent films. He was exposed to films, theatre, and circus performances. In 1930, at 20 years old, he was called up for military conscription, but he was deemed physically unfit to serve. He would not be drafted to fight in World War II for Japan. When Akira was 23, Heigo committed suicide. This was as a major tragedy in his life.

During the American occupation after the war, Kurosawa's films focused on ideas of democracy partly due to American censorship pressure. In the 1950s, after a few years of wide recognition in Japan, Kurosawa's films began to reach an international audience. Rashomon (1950) was initially only averagely liked in Japan. Without Kurosawa's knowledge, a representative of an Italian film company submitted his movie to the Venice Film festival. It won the Golden Lion, the most prestigious award of the festival. When it was distributed to the U.S., it was successful and well received. Rashomon paved the way for Kurosawa's and other Japanese director's films.

In 1960, Kurosawa started his own production company to gain greater artistic freedom in his work. His first film on his own was Yojimbo in 1961. Although he was in a period of success, television’s negative impact on filmmaking and an economic depression in Japan made him leave to find work in Hollywood. Unfortunately, none of his projects were successful. His thriller Runaway Train failed to gain financial backing, and personal differences caused Twentieth Century Fox to fire him from the Pearl Harbor film Tora! Tora! Tora!. Kurosawa’s disappointment in himself increased, as his 1970 comedy Dodes’ka-den was a commercial failure. Kurosawa attempted suicide in 1971 from sadness, tiredness, and financial suffering. He eventually recovered and gave up on directing. 

Kurosawa was approached by a Russian production company to make Dersu Uzala. Kurosawa began to make a comeback and bring his vision back onto screen. Many directors who admired his work were responsible for helping him make his full comeback. George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, who were big fans of his previous work, helped him produce Kagemusha (1980). It succeeded with flying colors. George Lucas has used some of Kurosawa’s films as inspiration for Star Wars. Later with French producer Serge Silberman, they made Ran (1985), which Kurosawa would eventually point out as his greatest film. Steven Spielberg helped him with funding for Rhapsody in August (1991).

He was honored with the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1990. In 1999 he was named "Asian of the Century" in the Arts, Literature, and Culture category by AsianWeek magazine and CNN. The Akira Kurosawa Award for Lifetime Achievement in Film Directing is awarded during the San Francisco International Film Festival.

In his films from the 1940s and 1950s, Kurosawa frequently employed the axial cut. The camera moves closer to or further away from the subject without tracking shots or dissolves, but through a series of matched jump cuts. Another stylistic technique of Kurosawa's is the "cut on motion." It is used to edit a sequence of a character or characters in motion so that an action is depicted in two or more separate shots, rather than one uninterrupted shot. Another cinematic technique used a lot by Kurosawa is the wipe. This is an effect created through an optical printer, in which, when a scene ends, a line or bar appears to move across the screen that would wipe away the image while simultaneously revealing the first image of the following scene. This became one of his signature techniques as a transitional device. Another part of his directing was giving great attention to the soundtracks in his films.

I chose this director because he is a very hardworking person. Although he failed a lot after a long period of being very successful, he continued to keep working hard until he became successful again. He is inspiring because he was able to make it in the American film industry which is very hard to do, especially for foreigners. To make it even more challenging for him, when he was bathing in success, he decided move on out of his company and decided to do things on his own. His movies stopped being so successful and could not get the funding. Although this happened he kept on going, even though he kept on failing until eventually, he succeeded. His films have impacted me as they have taught me many things about life.

Filmography: Sanshiro Sugata (1943), Drunken Angel (1948), Rashomon (1950), Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957), Yojimbo (1961), Sanjuro (1962), Dodes'ka-den (1970), Dersu Uzala (1975), Kagemusha (1980), Ran (1985), Dreams (1990), Rhapsody in August (1991), Madadayo (1993), The Outrage (1964), The Magnificent Seven (1960), A Fistful of Dollars (1964), and The Hidden Fortress (1958).








Page created on 4/3/2019 7:58:48 PM

Last edited 5/2/2019 7:34:32 PM

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