Akira Kurosawa

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wpqx
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#26 Post by wpqx » Sun Jun 15, 2008 6:59 am

I recently picked up a Hong Kong DVD of Sanshiro Sugata II which was the last of the available Kurosawa I needed to see. As far as I know Those Who Make Tomorrow is no longer in existence and if Donald Richie couldn't get a print of it, I'm assuming the film is lost. From all accounts it doesn't seem to be a great loss as it was personally hated by Kurosawa.

As far the Sanshiro sequel I enjoyed it quite a bit. Not to say it was as good as the original, but held up well and although employing a lot of politics of the time (the crude and barbarous Americans coming over) it holds relatively true. It's interesting that the film shows boxing culturally taking over the martial arts of Japan, and here we are in 2008 where mixed martial arts has completely taken over the cultural spotlight from boxing. Entertaining with some well publicized fight sequences. Interesting that in the climatic snow fight he chooses not to use any music, just the sound of howling wind. Certainly light years above his extremely disappointing propaganda effort The Most Beautiful.

As for the director's other output, he'd still probably rank in my top 20 of all time. Hopefully in the next month or so I'll be able to revisit Seven Samurai (I haven't seen it in 8 years) and possibly give Ran another look as those two were my favorite Kurosawa films at least on first impression.

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#27 Post by BrianInAtlanta » Sun Jun 15, 2008 8:00 pm

Sanshiro Sugata, Part 2 also ran this Saturday (June 14) on IFC. It is certainly worth seeing for the Kurosawa touches even if it isn't a successful effort.

The biggest problem is the same thing as Spiderman 3, too many subplots jammed into one film with little to hold it together. You've got:

1) A rickshaw boy wants Sugata to teach him judo.
2) Sugata is still racked with guilt about defeating the lovely Sayo's dad and she wishes he'd get over it and make a move, already.
3) Gennosuke's two younger brothers are going to karate Sugata's butt for throwing G. through the tall grasses at the end of the last movie.
4) Then shoehorned into that is the anti-America stuff with Sugata vs. an American boxer.

Print quality (from Janus) was a little rough with a lot of scratches and some degradation toward the end. I wonder whether the way the big fight scene in the snow was shot was something the young A.K. and his cameraman were trying out, was it just shot badly because they didn't light or reflect light onto the actors enough to keep them from being silhouettes, or is it just the deteriorated print.

Also not getting why being thrown across the room by Sugata seems to lead to symptoms similar to tuberculosis.

The two brothers are the main reason for watching it, however. A.K. goes into full Noh mode with the younger brother (an unrecognizable Ryunosuke Tsukigata who also plays Gennosuke) done up in some androgynous hair and makeup and both brothers performing with a wildness that easily tops Mifune at his broadest. If you like Japanese ham, A.K. slices it up thick in this one.

There are also some interesting lighting ideas here and there and some of the jump cutting in one or two places that A.K. would use better in No Regrets For Our Youth. Still, there is quite a bit of talk in this one, far less fluid than in the first film and Susumu Fujita seems a lot blander and stockier. The comedy is also a bit broad but enjoyable if you're in the mood.

And for anyone else who's seen it (I don't want to give the ending away), could the movie's last lines, spoken by the two brothers, be a hidden comment on the by-then inevitable outcome of the war?

wpqx
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#28 Post by wpqx » Sun Jun 15, 2008 8:56 pm

As far the print degradation as far as I know there is no original negative in existence, only duplicate prints so there's a chance it will never be restored to it's original luster. Funny IFC played it, here I was thinking I was tracking down a super hard to find film and it's on cable the same week.

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tryavna
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#29 Post by tryavna » Mon Jun 16, 2008 11:19 am

BrianInAtlanta wrote:Also not getting why being thrown across the room by Sugata seems to lead to symptoms similar to tuberculosis.
:lol: I noticed this, too. To be fair, though, Kurosawa is really borrowing a literary convention. There are plenty of late-19th/early-20th-century "boy's own" adventure stories in which physical violence leads to life-threatening fevers, etc.

Personally, I enjoyed Part II a little better than Part I -- though I guess that puts me in the minority here. I don't think Part II had any of the momentary flashes of brilliance that Part I does: the slow-mo fall, the moment of spiritual realization/transcendence while looking at the flower, the final few moments with Shimura, etc. But as a whole, the rhythm of the entire film feels smoother and more self-assured in Part II. Part I is extremely static in places, with lots of clunky intertitles to fill in the gaps. It just doesn't cohere, in my opinion.

BTW, even though the interactions between Sugata and the Americans are obviously meant to be propagandistic, I was struck by how comic Kurosawa made them. The real threat -- and the main thrust of the movie -- is the impending fight with the two brothers. Kurosawa's heart clearly is not in the more conventional Japan-vs.-America propaganda.

Also, Brian: The interactions between Sugata and the rickshaw boy are clearly meant to parallel the opening of Part I. Sugata himself started off as a rickshaw boy, so this is just an example of the second film paralleling the first.

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moviscop
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#30 Post by moviscop » Mon Jun 16, 2008 7:41 pm

Personally, I liked Yojimbo better than Sanjuro. But, I still think Red Beard is Kurosawa's masterpiece. The entire film was stunning. However, if I could change one thing about it, and only one, it would be the ending. I think it needed to be less optimistic, the ending.

Seven Samurai is the easy choice because it is phenomenal, but I still enjoy Mifune more in Red Beard.

Grand Illusion
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#31 Post by Grand Illusion » Tue Nov 04, 2008 12:46 am

Just a heads up to anyone in the Los Angeles area, the Academy (it's on Wilshire in Beverly Hills) is holding a Kurosawa art exhibit through mid-December. They have old posters, paintings (a lot of reproductions), original storyboards, costumes, props, old correspondence, etc. It's really interesting, and there are a few gems. My favorite was a storyboard for Tora! Tora! Tora! drawn on hotel stationary.

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moviscop
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#32 Post by moviscop » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:13 pm

Grand Illusion wrote:Just a heads up to anyone in the Los Angeles area, the Academy (it's on Wilshire in Beverly Hills) is holding a Kurosawa art exhibit through mid-December. They have old posters, paintings (a lot of reproductions), original storyboards, costumes, props, old correspondence, etc. It's really interesting, and there are a few gems. My favorite was a storyboard for Tora! Tora! Tora! drawn on hotel stationary.
Well, I know where I'm going this weekend. Maybe I can catch "Zoo" at the Egyptian while I'm at it.

On second thought...

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HerrSchreck
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#33 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:05 pm

I Know Where I'm Going is not a Kurosawa film. This weekend or any weekend.

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moviscop
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#34 Post by moviscop » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:26 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:I Know Where I'm Going is not a Kurosawa film. This weekend or any weekend.
Its not my fault they don't have a showing in NY. If you want to fly over we can carpool :D

Narshty
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#35 Post by Narshty » Thu Nov 13, 2008 7:25 am

Kurosawa: The Last Emperor (part 1) - Alex Cox's documentary, featuring interviews with Tatsuya Nakadai, Francis Coppola, Bernardo Bertolucci, Paul Verhoeven, Donald Richie, John Woo and others.

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Doctor Sunshine
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#36 Post by Doctor Sunshine » Sat Nov 29, 2008 4:15 am

Thanks for posting that. I'd been wanting to see that for ages.

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HerrSchreck
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#37 Post by HerrSchreck » Sat Nov 29, 2008 9:57 am

Can anyone point out anything on film or video that features substantial interview footage with Toshiro Mifune? Or even just footage of him on the set but out of character.. i e just being himself?

I've obviously been looking in the wrong places, because despite snippets here and there (I recall some brief appearances on a disc or two-- one with AK & team in an inn I think? in color?.. but nothing substantial) I cannot find much.

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Forrest Taft
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#38 Post by Forrest Taft » Sat Nov 29, 2008 11:00 am

I´ve yet to pick up the High and Low re-release, but it does include a 30 minute interview with Mifune. Good enough? I don´t think he speaks specifically about High and Low in the interview, but more about his career in general.

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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#39 Post by RagingNoodles » Sat Nov 29, 2008 1:27 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:Can anyone point out anything on film or video that features substantial interview footage with Toshiro Mifune? Or even just footage of him on the set but out of character.. i e just being himself?

I've obviously been looking in the wrong places, because despite snippets here and there (I recall some brief appearances on a disc or two-- one with AK & team in an inn I think? in color?.. but nothing substantial) I cannot find much.
Yeah like the poster above me mentioned, they have a 30 minute interview with him on the 2nd disc of the recent re-release DVD of High and Low. In it he discusses his first visit to Japan as a young man, his family life, the death of his parents at a young age, some of the "myths" about him, his acting academy, some comments about his work with Akira Kurosawa, photography, working with international filmmakers who have limited knowledge about Japan, etc. I just saw this yesterday and it also struck me that I couldn't remember if I had ever seen anything with Toshiro Mifune out of character and just talking about himself and life. He is really a charming humble man and I really want to see more of him just chatting away.

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zedz
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#40 Post by zedz » Sun Nov 30, 2008 5:29 am

Mifune in that interview seems really sweet and avuncular. I don't think I've ever seen him play that type onscreen. There's no real relevance to High and Low, but it's definitely a worthwhile inclusion. It hadn't occurred to me until I saw it, but like Schreck I don't think I'd ever seen Mifune just be himself before.

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HerrSchreck
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#41 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Nov 30, 2008 10:24 am

Yeah, isn't it curious that the guy who was probably Japans greatest male star of all time simply never seemed to have sat down for many interviews for the public to get to know him?

I just always assumed there has GOT to be something out there, that we here in the west are just not getting. I was hoping Stephen H, Dancing Kid, or MK could point out something others have missed..

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fiddlesticks
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#42 Post by fiddlesticks » Sun Nov 30, 2008 12:06 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:Yeah, isn't it curious that the guy who was probably Japans greatest male star of all time simply never seemed to have sat down for many interviews for the public to get to know him?
It's worth noting that Hara Setsuko, one of Japan's greatest female stars of all time and a contemporary of Mifune, was (is?) even more reclusive.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#43 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Nov 30, 2008 12:44 pm

zedz wrote:Mifune in that interview seems really sweet and avuncular. I don't think I've ever seen him play that type onscreen. There's no real relevance to High and Low, but it's definitely a worthwhile inclusion. It hadn't occurred to me until I saw it, but like Schreck I don't think I'd ever seen Mifune just be himself before.
I think his character in Naruse's "A Woman's Heart" may be pretty close to this....

Also, his cameo in Kayo Hatta's "Picture Bride".

Masae Aida's (Setsuko Hara's) situation is very different from Mifune -- I think Hideko Takamine's reticence would be more comparable (but I did find a coupe of 80s ciommercials she made on youtube).

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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#44 Post by sidehacker » Mon Dec 01, 2008 11:48 pm

Donald Richie on Mifune's acting style vs. his personality in real life.

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ellipsis7
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#45 Post by ellipsis7 » Thu Mar 26, 2009 4:37 am

Image
Wim Wenders's best shot

'The Coppolas, Kurosawa and my foot - on a lazy Sunday afternoon in paradise'

Interview by Leo Benedictus The Guardian, Thursday 12 March 2009

Summer 1978 in Napa Valley, California. Photograph: Wim Wenders

I confess to being a workaholic. And as movies always take up a year or two of your life, I'm happiest filling some of the time in between taking pictures.

This picture was taken in the summer of 1978, when I was living in San Francisco and working on a movie called Hammett, for Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Pictures. One weekend, at very short notice, I was told that I could join the film director Akira Kurosawa on a trip to Francis's home in Napa Valley. Kurosawa was in town to discuss a film that Francis and George Lucas were going to executive produce, which turned out to be one of his last great masterpieces - Kagemusha.

Francis sent his wonderful old Mercedes 600 limousine (pre-owned by the Pope, if I remember correctly) to drive Kurosawa, his translator and Tom Luddy of the Pacific Film Archive out into the country. The car was going to pick me up on the way, and I was standing on the street watching it arrive when I suddenly realised I should take a camera. I ran back up to my apartment and chose my old Russian Horizon, a 35mm panoramic gizmo that I liked because it was light and uncomplicated.

As it turned out, the trip became quite an adventure. The old Mercedes gave up in the middle of nowhere, its engine steaming. The driver didn't have a clue how to get it going again. So we all wandered into a country fair, where we could at least find some shade and cold drinks. I remember I took some pictures of Kurosawa walking around, including one that shows him in the midst of a Cajun band, the Louisiana Playboys.

Finally, our saviour appeared, in the person of the documentary film-maker Les Blank, who passed by in his beat-up old van and volunteered to take our entourage to Napa Valley. The van was a sort of hippy vehicle without seats, just mattresses in the back to lie on - so you can imagine Francis's amazement when this beat-up wreck stopped in front of his mansion and Akira Kurosawa climbed out.

The day was scorching hot, so Francis took his guests to a pond in the little forest behind his property. That's when I took this picture of a lazy Sunday afternoon in paradise. You can see Francis in the water and Tom Luddy on the big rock, along with Francis's wife Eleanor and his daughter

Sofia (still a little girl), as well as Kurosawa's translator. Kurosawa himself is sitting in the shade. He, of course, could not be persuaded to jump into the water. The fact that he had spent the excursion in shirtsleeves was quite a concession already.

The only great view of the whole group was from the water, so I swam out with my Horizon - you can see my foot in the foreground - and took this picture, guessing the exposure. For a long time, nobody said a word. It was as if we were all aware of this instant of bliss: the sun shining through the trees; the sound of the crickets; the utter peacefulness of a moment that united several generations of film-makers. Life is good - and every now and then a photograph can do it justice.

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zedz
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#46 Post by zedz » Thu Mar 26, 2009 4:53 pm

Great story! Now I'm going to be haunted by the image of Akira Kurosawa, Wim Wenders and Les Blank all piled into a shaggin' wagon.

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exte
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#47 Post by exte » Sun Apr 05, 2009 6:29 pm

I was watching the "It's Wonderful to Create" segment on Seven Samurai, and noticed that there is an actual museum in his honor, complete with the "Akira Kurosawa Memorial Hall". I was wondering, has anyone gone there? Is it easy to visit if you've never been to Japan before? Here's the website if anyone else is interested. Anyone? Thank you.

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Antoine Doinel
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#48 Post by Antoine Doinel » Wed May 27, 2009 4:46 pm

Ryukoko University has finished digitizing over 27,000 personal documents/items belonging to Akira Kurosawa. They are now viewable right here.

Jack Phillips
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#49 Post by Jack Phillips » Wed May 27, 2009 11:14 pm

exte wrote:I was watching the "It's Wonderful to Create" segment on Seven Samurai, and noticed that there is an actual museum in his honor, complete with the "Akira Kurosawa Memorial Hall". I was wondering, has anyone gone there? Is it easy to visit if you've never been to Japan before? Here's the website if anyone else is interested. Anyone? Thank you.
Apparently it's in Saga prefecture, which is on the island of Kyushu, which is a loooong way from Tokyo. You'd really have to want to go to visit the place.

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StevenJ0001
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Re: Akira Kurosawa

#50 Post by StevenJ0001 » Thu May 28, 2009 12:55 am

Antoine Doinel wrote:Ryukoko University has finished digitizing over 27,000 personal documents/items belonging to Akira Kurosawa. They are now viewable right here.
That's an incredible archive. I wish I could read Japanese, but even without that ability it's interesting to flip through the contents.

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