✪✪✪ Ran Akira Kurosawa

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Ran Akira Kurosawa

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Except from Ran (1985)

The year-old Kurosawa joined P. During his five years as an assistant director, Kurosawa worked under numerous directors, but by far the most important figure in his development was Yamamoto. Of his 24 films as A. Yamamoto advised Kurosawa that a good director needed to master screenwriting. This outside scriptwriting would serve Kurosawa as a lucrative sideline lasting well into the s, long after he became famous.

In the two years following the release of Horse in , Kurosawa searched for a story he could use to launch his directing career. Towards the end of , about a year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor , novelist Tsuneo Tomita published his Musashi Miyamoto -inspired judo novel, Sanshiro Sugata , the advertisements for which intrigued Kurosawa. He bought the book on its publication day, devoured it in one sitting, and immediately asked Toho to secure the film rights. Kurosawa's initial instinct proved correct as, within a few days, three other major Japanese studios also offered to buy the rights. Toho prevailed, and Kurosawa began pre-production on his debut work as director. Shooting of Sanshiro Sugata began on location in Yokohama in December Production proceeded smoothly, but getting the completed film past the censors was an entirely different matter.

Kurosawa had just turned The movie became both a critical and commercial success. Nevertheless, the censorship office would later decide to cut out some 18 minutes of footage, much of which is now considered lost. He next turned to the subject of wartime female factory workers in The Most Beautiful , a propaganda film which he shot in a semi-documentary style in early To coax realistic performances from his actresses, the director had them live in a real factory during the shoot, eat the factory food and call each other by their character names.

He would use similar methods with his performers throughout his career. She and Kurosawa were constantly at loggerheads, and it was through these arguments that the two, paradoxically, became close. They married on May 21, , with Yaguchi two months pregnant she never resumed her acting career , and the couple would remain together until her death in Shortly before his marriage, Kurosawa was pressured by the studio against his will to direct a sequel to his debut film. The often blatantly propagandistic Sanshiro Sugata Part II , which premiered in May , is generally considered one of his weakest pictures.

Kurosawa decided to write the script for a film that would be both censor-friendly and less expensive to produce. By this time, Japan had surrendered and the occupation of Japan had begun. The new American censors interpreted the values allegedly promoted in the picture as overly "feudal" and banned the work. It was not released until , the year another Kurosawa film, Ikiru , was also released. Ironically, while in production, the film had already been savaged by Japanese wartime censors as too Western and "democratic" they particularly disliked the comic porter played by Enoken , so the movie most probably would not have seen the light of day even if the war had continued beyond its completion.

After the war, Kurosawa, influenced by the democratic ideals of the Occupation, sought to make films that would establish a new respect towards the individual and the self. The first such film, No Regrets for Our Youth , inspired by both the Takigawa incident and the Hotsumi Ozaki wartime spy case, criticized Japan's prewar regime for its political oppression.

The original script had to be extensively rewritten and, because of its controversial theme and gender of its protagonist, the completed work divided critics. Nevertheless, it managed to win the approval of audiences, who turned variations on the film's title into a postwar catchphrase. His next film, One Wonderful Sunday premiered in July to mixed reviews. It is a relatively uncomplicated and sentimental love story dealing with an impoverished postwar couple trying to enjoy, within the devastation of postwar Tokyo, their one weekly day off. The movie bears the influence of Frank Capra , D. Griffith and F. Murnau , each of whom was among Kurosawa's favorite directors. It marked the debut of the intense young actor Toshiro Mifune.

It was Kurosawa who, with his mentor Yamamoto, had intervened to persuade Toho to sign Mifune, during an audition in which the young man greatly impressed Kurosawa, but managed to alienate most of the other judges. Drunken Angel is often considered the director's first major work. A gritty story of a doctor who tries to save a gangster yakuza with tuberculosis , it was also the first time that Kurosawa directed Mifune, who went on to play major roles in all but one of the director's next 16 films the exception being Ikiru.

While Mifune was not cast as the protagonist in Drunken Angel , his explosive performance as the gangster so dominates the drama that he shifted the focus from the title character, the alcoholic doctor played by Takashi Shimura , who had already appeared in several Kurosawa movies. However, Kurosawa did not want to smother the young actor's immense vitality, and Mifune's rebellious character electrified audiences in much the way that Marlon Brando 's defiant stance would startle American film audiences a few years later. For this organization's debut work, and first film for Daiei studios , Kurosawa turned to a contemporary play by Kazuo Kikuta and, together with Taniguchi, adapted it for the screen.

The Quiet Duel starred Toshiro Mifune as an idealistic young doctor struggling with syphilis , a deliberate attempt by Kurosawa to break the actor away from being typecast as gangsters. Released in March , it was a box office success, but is generally considered one of the director's lesser achievements. It is a detective movie perhaps the first important Japanese film in that genre [54] that explores the mood of Japan during its painful postwar recovery through the story of a young detective, played by Mifune, and his fixation on the recovery of his handgun, which was stolen by a penniless war veteran who proceeds to use it to rob and murder.

Adapted from an unpublished novel by Kurosawa in the style of a favorite writer of his, Georges Simenon , it was the director's first collaboration with screenwriter Ryuzo Kikushima , who would later help to script eight other Kurosawa films. Scandal , released by Shochiku in April , was inspired by the director's personal experiences with, and anger towards, Japanese yellow journalism. The work is an ambitious mixture of courtroom drama and social problem film about free speech and personal responsibility, but even Kurosawa regarded the finished product as dramatically unfocused and unsatisfactory, and almost all critics agree.

After finishing Scandal , Kurosawa was approached by Daiei studios to make another film for them. Kurosawa picked a script by an aspiring young screenwriter, Shinobu Hashimoto , who would eventually work on nine of his films. Kurosawa saw potential in the script, and with Hashimoto's help, polished and expanded it and then pitched it to Daiei, who were happy to accept the project due to its low budget. The shooting of Rashomon began on July 7, , and, after extensive location work in the primeval forest of Nara , wrapped on August Just one week was spent in hurried post-production, hampered by a studio fire, and the finished film premiered at Tokyo's Imperial Theatre on August 25, expanding nationwide the following day.

The movie was met by lukewarm reviews, with many critics puzzled by its unique theme and treatment, but it was nevertheless a moderate financial success for Daiei. Kurosawa's next film, for Shochiku, was The Idiot , an adaptation of the novel by the director's favorite writer, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The story is relocated from Russia to Hokkaido , but otherwise adheres closely to the original, a fact seen by many critics as detrimental to the work. A studio-mandated edit shortened it from Kurosawa's original cut of minutes to just minutes, making the resulting narrative exceedingly difficult to follow.

The severely edited film version is widely considered to be one of the director's least successful works and the original full-length version no longer exists. Contemporary reviews of the much shortened edited version were very negative, but the film was a moderate success at the box office, largely because of the popularity of one of its stars, Setsuko Hara. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kurosawa, Rashomon had been entered in the Venice Film Festival , due to the efforts of Giuliana Stramigioli , a Japan-based representative of an Italian film company, who had seen and admired the movie and convinced Daiei to submit it.

On September 10, , Rashomon was awarded the festival's highest prize, the Golden Lion , shocking not only Daiei but the international film world, which at the time was largely unaware of Japan's decades-old cinematic tradition. The company was taking a considerable gamble. It had put out only one prior subtitled film in the American market, and the only previous Japanese talkie commercially released in New York had been Mikio Naruse 's comedy, Wife! Be Like a Rose , in a critical and box-office flop. This success in turn led to a vogue in America and the West for Japanese movies throughout the s, replacing the enthusiasm for Italian neorealist cinema. His career boosted by his sudden international fame, Kurosawa, now reunited with his original film studio, Toho which would go on to produce his next 11 films , set to work on his next project, Ikiru.

The movie stars Takashi Shimura as a cancer-ridden Tokyo bureaucrat, Watanabe, on a final quest for meaning before his death. For the screenplay, Kurosawa brought in Hashimoto as well as writer Hideo Oguni, who would go on to co-write twelve Kurosawa films. Despite the work's grim subject matter, the screenwriters took a satirical approach, which some have compared to the work of Brecht , to both the bureaucratic world of its hero and the U. American pop songs figure prominently in the film. Because of this strategy, the film-makers are usually credited with saving the picture from the kind of sentimentality common to dramas about characters with terminal illnesses.

Ikiru opened in October to rave reviews—it won Kurosawa his second Kinema Junpo "Best Film" award—and enormous box office success. It remains the most acclaimed of all the artist's films set in the modern era. In December , Kurosawa took his Ikiru screenwriters, Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni, for a forty-five-day secluded residence at an inn to create the screenplay for his next movie, Seven Samurai. The ensemble work was Kurosawa's first proper samurai film , the genre for which he would become most famous.

The simple story, about a poor farming village in Sengoku period Japan that hires a group of samurai to defend it against an impending attack by bandits, was given a full epic treatment, with a huge cast largely consisting of veterans of previous Kurosawa productions and meticulously detailed action, stretching out to almost three-and-a-half hours of screen time. Three months were spent in pre-production and a month in rehearsals. Shooting took up days spread over almost a year, interrupted by production and financing troubles and Kurosawa's health problems. The film finally opened in April , half a year behind its original release date and about three times over budget, making it at the time the most expensive Japanese film ever made. However, by Hollywood standards, it was a quite modestly budgeted production, even for that time.

The film received positive critical reaction and became a big hit, quickly making back the money invested in it and providing the studio with a product that they could, and did, market internationally—though with extensive edits. Over time—and with the theatrical and home video releases of the uncut version—its reputation has steadily grown. It is now regarded by some commentators as the greatest Japanese film ever made, and in , a poll of Japanese film critics also voted it the best Japanese film ever made.

In , nuclear tests in the Pacific were causing radioactive rainstorms in Japan and one particular incident in March had exposed a Japanese fishing boat to nuclear fallout , with disastrous results. It is in this anxious atmosphere that Kurosawa's next film, Record of a Living Being , was conceived. The story concerned an elderly factory owner Toshiro Mifune so terrified of the prospect of a nuclear attack that he becomes determined to move his entire extended family both legal and extra-marital to what he imagines is the safety of a farm in Brazil.

Production went much more smoothly than the director's previous film, but a few days before shooting ended, Kurosawa's composer, collaborator and close friend Fumio Hayasaka died of tuberculosis at the age of The film's score was finished by Hayasaka's student, Masaru Sato , who would go on to score all of Kurosawa's next eight films. Record of a Living Being opened in November to mixed reviews and muted audience reaction, becoming the first Kurosawa film to lose money during its original theatrical run.

Today, it is considered by many to be among the finest films dealing with the psychological effects of the global nuclear stalemate. Kurosawa's next project, Throne of Blood , an adaptation of William Shakespeare 's Macbeth —set, like Seven Samurai , in the Sengoku Era—represented an ambitious transposition of the English work into a Japanese context. Kurosawa instructed his leading actress, Isuzu Yamada , to regard the work as if it were a cinematic version of a Japanese rather than a European literary classic. Given Kurosawa's appreciation of traditional Japanese stage acting, the acting of the players, particularly Yamada, draws heavily on the stylized techniques of the Noh theater.

It was filmed in and released in January to a slightly less negative domestic response than had been the case with the director's previous film. Abroad, Throne of Blood , regardless of the liberties it takes with its source material, quickly earned a place among the most celebrated Shakespeare adaptations. Another adaptation of a classic European theatrical work followed almost immediately, with production of The Lower Depths , based on a play by Maxim Gorky , taking place in May and June In contrast to the Shakespearean sweep of Throne of Blood , The Lower Depths was shot on only two confined sets, in order to emphasize the restricted nature of the characters' lives. Though faithful to the play, this adaptation of Russian material to a completely Japanese setting—in this case, the late Edo period —unlike his earlier The Idiot , was regarded as artistically successful.

The film premiered in September , receiving a mixed response similar to that of Throne of Blood. However, some critics rank it among the director's most underrated works. Kurosawa's three next movies after Seven Samurai had not managed to capture Japanese audiences in the way that that film had. The mood of the director's work had been growing increasingly pessimistic and dark, with the possibility of redemption through personal responsibility now very much questioned, particularly in Throne of Blood and The Lower Depths. He recognized this, and deliberately aimed for a more light-hearted and entertaining film for his next production, while switching to the new widescreen format that had been gaining popularity in Japan. The resulting film, The Hidden Fortress , is an action-adventure comedy-drama about a medieval princess, her loyal general and two peasants who all need to travel through enemy lines in order to reach their home region.

Released in December , The Hidden Fortress became an enormous box office success in Japan and was warmly received by critics both in Japan and abroad. Today, the film is considered one of Kurosawa's most lightweight efforts, though it remains popular, not least because it is one of several major influences on George Lucas 's space opera , Star Wars. Starting with Rashomon , Kurosawa's productions had become increasingly large in scope and so had the director's budgets. Toho, concerned about this development, suggested that he might help finance his own works, therefore making the studio's potential losses smaller, while in turn allowing himself more artistic freedom as co-producer.

Kurosawa agreed, and the Kurosawa Production Company was established in April , with Toho as the majority shareholder. Despite risking his own money, Kurosawa chose a story that was more directly critical of the Japanese business and political elites than any previous work. The Bad Sleep Well , based on a script by Kurosawa's nephew Mike Inoue, is a revenge drama about a young man who is able to infiltrate the hierarchy of a corrupt Japanese company with the intention of exposing the men responsible for his father's death.

Its theme proved topical: while the film was in production, the massive Anpo protests were held against the new U. The film opened in September to positive critical reaction and modest box office success. The minute opening sequence depicting a corporate wedding reception is widely regarded as one of Kurosawa's most skillfully executed set pieces, but the remainder of the film is often perceived as disappointing by comparison. The movie has also been criticized for employing the conventional Kurosawan hero to combat a social evil that cannot be resolved through the actions of individuals, however courageous or cunning. Yojimbo The Bodyguard , Kurosawa Production's second film, centers on a masterless samurai, Sanjuro, who strolls into a 19th-century town ruled by two opposing violent factions and provokes them into destroying each other.

The director used this work to play with many genre conventions, particularly the Western , while at the same time offering an unprecedentedly for the Japanese screen graphic portrayal of violence. Some commentators have seen the Sanjuro character in this film as a fantasy figure who magically reverses the historical triumph of the corrupt merchant class over the samurai class. Featuring Tatsuya Nakadai in his first major role in a Kurosawa movie, and with innovative photography by Kazuo Miyagawa who shot Rashomon and Takao Saito , the film premiered in April and was a critically and commercially successful venture, earning more than any previous Kurosawa film.

The movie and its blackly comic tone were also widely imitated abroad. Sergio Leone 's A Fistful of Dollars was a virtual unauthorized scene-by-scene remake with Toho filing a lawsuit on Kurosawa's behalf and prevailing. Following the success of Yojimbo , Kurosawa found himself under pressure from Toho to create a sequel. Kurosawa turned to a script he had written before Yojimbo , reworking it to include the hero of his previous film. It is lighter in tone and closer to a conventional period film than Yojimbo , though its story of a power struggle within a samurai clan is portrayed with strongly comic undertones.

The film opened on January 1, , quickly surpassing Yojimbo ' s box office success and garnering positive reviews. Kurosawa had meanwhile instructed Toho to purchase the film rights to King's Ransom , a novel about a kidnapping written by American author and screenwriter Evan Hunter , under his pseudonym of Ed McBain, as one of his 87th Precinct series of crime books. The director intended to create a work condemning kidnapping, which he considered one of the very worst crimes.

The suspense film, titled High and Low , was shot during the latter half of and released in March It broke Kurosawa's box office record the third film in a row to do so , became the highest grossing Japanese film of the year, and won glowing reviews. However, his triumph was somewhat tarnished when, ironically, the film was blamed for a wave of kidnappings which occurred in Japan about this time he himself received kidnapping threats directed at his young daughter, Kazuko.

High and Low is considered by many commentators to be among the director's strongest works. Kurosawa quickly moved on to his next project, Red Beard. A conceited and materialistic, foreign-trained young doctor, Yasumoto, is forced to become an intern at the clinic under the stern tutelage of Doctor Niide, known as "Akahige" "Red Beard" , played by Mifune. Although he resists Red Beard initially, Yasumoto comes to admire his wisdom and courage, and to perceive the patients at the clinic, whom he at first despised, as worthy of compassion and dignity. The shoot, the film-maker's longest ever, lasted well over a year after five months of pre-production , and wrapped in spring , leaving the director, his crew and his actors exhausted. Red Beard premiered in April , becoming the year's highest-grossing Japanese production and the third and last Kurosawa film to top the prestigious Kinema Jumpo yearly critics poll.

It remains one of Kurosawa's best-known and most-loved works in his native country. Outside Japan, critics have been much more divided. Most commentators concede its technical merits and some praise it as among Kurosawa's best, while others insist that it lacks complexity and genuine narrative power, with still others claiming that it represents a retreat from the artist's previous commitment to social and political change. The film marked something of an end of an era for its creator. The director himself recognized this at the time of its release, telling critic Donald Richie that a cycle of some kind had just come to an end and that his future films and production methods would be different. Beginning in the late s, television began increasingly to dominate the leisure time of the formerly large and loyal Japanese cinema audience.

And as film company revenues dropped, so did their appetite for risk—particularly the risk represented by Kurosawa's costly production methods. Red Beard also marked the midway point, chronologically, in the artist's career. During his previous twenty-nine years in the film industry which includes his five years as assistant director , he had directed twenty-three films, while during the remaining twenty-eight years, for many and complex reasons, he would complete only seven more.

Also, for reasons never adequately explained, Red Beard would be his final film starring Toshiro Mifune. Yu Fujiki, an actor who worked on The Lower Depths , observed, regarding the closeness of the two men on the set, "Mr. Kurosawa's heart was in Mr. Mifune's body. When Kurosawa's exclusive contract with Toho came to an end in , the year-old director was seriously contemplating change. Observing the troubled state of the domestic film industry, and having already received dozens of offers from abroad, the idea of working outside Japan appealed to him as never before. For his first foreign project, Kurosawa chose a story based on a Life magazine article. The Embassy Pictures action thriller, to be filmed in English and called simply Runaway Train , would have been his first in color.

But the language barrier proved a major problem, and the English version of the screenplay was not even finished by the time filming was to begin in autumn The shoot, which required snow, was moved to autumn , then canceled in Almost two decades later, another foreign director working in Hollywood, Andrei Konchalovsky , finally made Runaway Train , though from a new script loosely based on Kurosawa's. The director meanwhile had become involved in a much more ambitious Hollywood project. He spent several months working on the script with Ryuzo Kikushima and Hideo Oguni, but very soon the project began to unravel.

The director of the American sequences turned out not to be David Lean , as originally planned, but American Richard Fleischer. The budget was also cut, and the screen time allocated for the Japanese segment would now be no longer than 90 minutes—a major problem, considering that Kurosawa's script ran over four hours. After numerous revisions with the direct involvement of Darryl Zanuck , a more or less finalized cut screenplay was agreed upon in May Shooting began in early December, but Kurosawa would last only a little over three weeks as director.

He struggled to work with an unfamiliar crew and the requirements of a Hollywood production, while his working methods puzzled his American producers, who ultimately concluded that the director must be mentally ill. Kurosawa was examined at Kyoto University Hospital by a neuropsychologist, Dr. Murakami, whose diagnosis was forwarded to Darryl Zanuck and Richard Zanuck at Fox studios indicating a diagnosis of neurasthenia stating that, "He is suffering from disturbance of sleep, agitated with feelings of anxiety and in manic excitement caused by the above mentioned illness.

It is necessary for him to have rest and medical treatment for more than two months. He was ultimately replaced, for the film's Japanese sequences, with two directors, Kinji Fukasaku and Toshio Masuda. He had spent years of his life on a logistically nightmarish project to which he ultimately did not contribute a foot of film shot by himself. He had his name removed from the credits, though the script used for the Japanese half was still his and his co-writers'. Repertory Picks. Writer, director, and author Paul Feig is the director and producer behind the hit comedy Bridesmaids. In compiling his top ten Criterions, Cronos director Guillermo del Toro had a hell of a time limiting himself. Arguably the most celebrated Japanese filmmaker of all time, Akira Kurosawa had a career that spanned from the Second World War to the early nineties and that stands as a monument of artistic, entertainment, and personal achievement.

His best-known films remain his samurai epics Seven Samurai and Yojimbo , but his intimate dramas, such as Ikiru and High and Low , are just as searing. Kurosawa would subsequently gain international fame with Rashomon , a breakthrough in nonlinear narrative and sumptuous visuals. Following a personal breakdown in the late sixties, Kurosawa rebounded by expanding his dark brand of humanism into new stylistic territory, with films such as Kagemusha and Ran , visionary, color, epic ruminations on modern man and nature.

The Buddha has no place in these lands. To find out where the film is screening near you visit independentcinemaoffice. Tags: Akira Kurosawa Japanese cinema. How The French Connection reinvented the Hollywood cop movie. Little White Lies was established in as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Share this. Words Oscar Rickett Share this Share this. Sign up to our weekly newsletter. Reviews Features Interviews Podcast. Magazine Membership Stockists Submissions.

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