Akira Kurosawa

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by the BFI and the films on them.

Moderator: MichaelB

Message
Author
User avatar
reaky
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 8:53 am
Location: Cambridge, England

Akira Kurosawa

#1 Post by reaky » Thu Nov 11, 2004 12:33 pm

The Bad Sleep Well

Image

The Bad Sleep Well, the first film made by Kurosawa's own, newly founded production company, was also the first over which he had complete control. He wanted to make 'a movie of some social significance' and decided to target the culture of corruption he saw pervading post-war Japanese society. This impressive tale of greed, corporate corruption and revenge is a powerful indictment of the dark side of business and politics with distinct overtones of Hamlet.

Koichi Nishi (Toshiro Mifune) is a grieving son seeking revenge for the 'suicide' of his father. By assuming a new identity he rises through the ranks of the Public Corporation and cynically marries the President's daughter to better infiltrate the company and expose the corrupt practice that was responsible for his father's death. However, as Koichi falls in love with his wife, disaster looms.

Kurosawa directed three adaptations from Shakespeare. Two were recreated as samurai movies: Macbeth became Throne of Blood (1957), and King Lear inspired his last major film, the epic Ran (1985). The Bad Sleep Well comes between the two and is the least-known. In addition to its contemporary setting it is the freest adaptation of the three.

Extras:
- 8-page illustrated booklet with notes by film historian Philip Kemp
- Extract from Kurosawa on Kurosawa from Sight & Sound, Autumn 1964.

Drunken Angel

Image

Drunken Angel was the film that gave Toshiro Mifune his first major screen role. The anger and energy of his performance made him a star and he went on to work with Kurosawa in 16 films. He is seen here alongside Toho regular Takashi Shimura. Drunken Angel - a film that is part gangster, part melodrama and part social critique - established their dynamic relationship and the extraordinary on-screen chemistry which Kurosawa would exploit further in films such as Stray Dog and Seven Samurai. He eventually worked with Shimura in 21 films.

Dr Sanada (Takashi Shimura), the drunken angel of the title, runs a clinic in the slums of Tokyo. When small-time hood Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune) comes to his surgery after a gunfight, Sanada diagnoses him with tuberculosis and convinces him to begin treatment. The disillusioned doctor feels that, by saving this young yakuza, he can retrieve a sense of his own lost youth and idealism. Thus they embark on a troubled friendship which is tested by the prejudices of the two and the release from prison of Matsunaga's mobster boss.

Despite being Kurosawa's eighth feature, Drunken Angel was the director's first critical success and the first film in which he felt that he finally discovered himself. He remarked, 'In this picture I was finally myself. It was my picture. I was doing it and no one else.' The 'existential humanism' which made him famous is at the root of this extraordinary tale with the correlation between strength of spirit and physical well-being representing the two forces at work in post-war Japan.

Extras:
- 12-page illustrated booklet with notes by film historian Philip Kemp
- Extract from The Films of Kurosawa by Jay Leyda from Sight & Sound, Oct/Dec 1954
- Extract from Kurosawa on Kurosawa from Sight & Sound, Autumn 1964

High and Low

Image

Based on crime writer Ed McBain's detective novel King's Ransom, High and Low is a gripping police thriller starring Kurosawa regular, Toshiro Mifune. Wealthy industrialist Kingo Gondo (Mifune) faces an agonising choice when a ruthless kidnapper, aiming to snatch his young son, takes the chauffeur's boy by mistake - but still demands the ransom. Gondo, engaged in a precarious scheme to seize control of the shoe company he works for, faces ruin if he pays up.

Although the film is based on the McBain novel, Kurosawa essentially takes the plot outline - a kidnapping that goes wrong and the moral dilemma it poses - and, with his scriptwriters, turns it into something more ambiguous and complex; an anatomy of the inequalities in modern Japanese society.

High and Low is an intricate film noir, where the intense police hunt for the kidnapper, led by the tenacious Inspector Tokuro (Tatsuya Nakadai), is accompanied by penetrating insight into the kidnapper's state of mind. Kurosawa's virtuoso direction provides no easy answers, and in short, intense sequences he portrays the businessman, the police and the criminal as equally brutal but nonetheless human.

Extras:
- This DVD contains sleeve notes by film historian Philip Kemp.

I Live in Fear

Image

When a wealthy foundry owner decides to move his entire family from Tokyo to Brazil to escape the nuclear holocaust which he fears is imminent, his family, afraid of losing their status and inheritance, tries to have him declared mentally incompetent.

Made at the height of the Cold War, with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still a recent memory, and with the USA, Britain and the Soviet Union all competing in nuclear tests, this blazing attack on complacency stemmed from the same H-Bomb paranoia that gave birth to the Godzilla films.

Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune delivers an extraordinary performance as Kiichi, a man twice his age, as does Takashi Shimura, who two years before had starred as the cancer-stricken clerk in Ikiru.

I Live in Fear, though one of Kurosawa's least commercially successful films, was the one he expressed himself proudest of having made:

The turn-out for this film was very bad, few people came, and it was my biggest box-office failure. After having put so much of myself into this film, after having seriously treated a serious theme, this lack of interest disappointed me. When I think of it, however, I see now that we made the film too soon. At that time no one was thinking seriously of atomic extinction. It was only later that people got frightened, and that a number of films on the subject appeared, among them On the Beach.

Extras:
- This DVD contains sleeve notes by film historian Philip Kemp

Red Beard

Image

Red Beard (Akahige), the last and most ambitious of Kurosawa's collaborations with Toshiro Mifune, marks the end of one of the most remarkable actor-director relationships in the history of cinema. Between 1948 and 1965 Kurosawa directed 17 films, 16 of which starred Mifune. This intimate and engrossing epic, with Mifune in the role of a doctor for the second time under Kurosawa's direction, is a fitting culmination of their long partnership.

Red Beard took two years to shoot - longer even than the epic Seven Samurai. The action is set at the very end of the Tokugawa period in the 1860s, a time of crucial transition, when the Shogunate that had ruled Japan for nearly three centuries was about to be overthrown and the country, forcibly opened up to Western influences, was undergoing far-reaching changes.

In a rural clinic, the authoritarian but humane Dr Niide (Toshiro Mifune) teaches the idle and socially ambitious new intern Yasumoto (Yuzo Kayama) the meaning of responsibility, first to oneself and then to others. The film unfolds in a series of vignettes which transform the arrogant student into a caring doctor. This theme of the learning process within a master-pupil relationship is one that constantly recurred in Kurosawa's work.

The meticulous Kurosawa insisted on constructing virtually an entire small town for shooting, complete with back alleys and side streets, some of which were never even filmed, and on using nothing but authentic materials of the period. The set was so elaborate that it attracted the interest of tourist companies, who ran special bus tours for visitors.

Extras:
- Filmed introduction by director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid and Nancy)
- Biographies of Kurosawa and Mifune
- Original poster
Sanjuro

Image

In response to the huge critical and commercial success of Yojimbo, Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune teamed up a year later to make this comedy of manners, altogether more light-hearted than its predecessor.

Sanjuro (Mifune) runs rings around nine nave and clean-cut samurai and two genteel ladies while cleaning up a spot of corruption in local government. Kurosawa plays most of it for laughs by expertly parodying the conventions of Japanese period action movies. Most of the action is relatively bloodless, but in the very last scene he stages a startling switch of mood with an intense finale which may well be the briefest, and most breathtaking, duel in all cinema.

Yojimbo introduced the character calling himself 'Sanjuro' (which means 'thirty years old'), the scruffy, mercenary, cynical ronin (masterless samurai). The public had taken this maverick figure to their hearts and demanded a sequel. Strictly speaking, Sanjuro (Tsubaki Sanjuro) is not a 'sequel' to the earlier film, since it seems to take place at a slightly earlier period of Japanese history. Yojimbo is very exactly placed in the 1860s, the final years of the Tokugawa era. The period of Sanjuro is not specified, but it appears to be set during a more socially stable period, maybe a decade or two earlier.

Much of the humour derives from the contrast between Sanjuro's practical, down-to-earth behaviour and the naivety of the young samurai to whom, rather reluctantly, he becomes the guardian and mentor - a humorous treatment of the master-pupil theme that so often recurs in Kurosawa's films.

Despite its tongue-in-cheek humour, Sanjuro is made with all the fluid elegance of Kurosawa at the height of his powers. Even at his most playful, Kurosawa has serious points to make about Japanese society and its overwhelming urge towards social conformity.

Extras:
- Filmed introduction by director Alex Cox (Repo Man, Sid and Nancy)
- Biographies of Kurosawa and Mifune

Seven Samurai

Image

Seven warriors defend a village from ferocious bandits in Kurosawa's gripping masterpiece. Remade as The Magnificent Seven and later providing the inspiration for the smash hit, A Bug's Life, it features extraordinarily vivid battle sequences, plenty of unexpected humour and enough nail-biting tension to make your manicurist weep. In turns explosive and thought provoking, this is the kind of epic that Sunday afternoons were made for.

The movie was directed by Akira Kurosawa, one of those rare Japanese directors that most people in the UK have actually heard of. Although directors like Kinugasa and Horikawa are critically acclaimed in their own country their work travels about as well as a Kamikaze pilot. Kurosawa's works, however, are perfect for the global market, with their blend of action, humour and slow burning tension; the universality of his genius has led to many modern American film-makers (including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola) acknowledging the Sensei Of Cinema as a major influence on their work.

There's a compelling resonance in his plots which lend themselves to Western remakes - aside from Seven Samurai, Rashomon was remade as The Outrage and Sergio Leone plundered Yojimbo and emerged with A Fistful of Dollars. But the originals, as they say, are still the best. Aside from Seven Samurai, Rashomon and Yojimbo, the following Kurosawa titles are available from the BFI: Throne of Blood, The Bad Sleep Well, Drunken Angel, Ikiru, Sanjuro, Hidden Fortress and I Live in Fear.

Amusing, vivid, violent and hugely entertaining, they represent, for many, the very best of Japanese cinema.

Stray Dog

Image

A masterful mix of film noir and police thriller set on the sweltering mean streets of Occupied Tokyo.

When rookie detective Murakami (Toshiro Mifune) has his pistol stolen from his pocket while on a bus, his frantic attempts to track down the thief lead him to an illegal weapons market in the Tokyo underworld. But the gun has already passed from the pickpocket to a young gangster, and Murakami's gun is identified as the weapon in the shooting of a woman. Murakami, overwhelmed with remorse, turns for help to his older and more experienced senior, Sato (a superb performance by Takashi Shimura). The race is on to find the shooter before he can strike again.

Extras:
- Director and cast biographies.

Throne of Blood

Image

Kurosawa's transposition of Shakespeare's Macbeth to sixteenth-century Japan is immensely successful in capturing the spirit of the original. A truly remarkable film combining beauty and terror to produce a mood of haunting power, Throne of Blood also shows Kurosawa's familiar mastery of atmosphere, action, and the savagery of war.

Extras:
- Director and cast biographies.

Yojimbo

Image

Yojimbo is the story of Sanjuro, a samurai in nineteenth- century Japan who drifts into a rural town and learns from the innkeeper that the town is divided between two gangs. He proceeds to plays one side off against the other, but his activities are curtailed by the arrival of Unosuke, a shrewd and ruthless man - the son of one of the gangsters. Events spiral into violence and the samurai must chose a side...

This classic movie was remade as For a Fistful of Dollars, Last Man Standing, and Avildsen's Coyote Moon. It is paid homage to in films as varied as Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Miller's Crossing, is spoofed in Support Your Local Gunfighter and Mars Attacks!, and of course, had a sequel, Sanjuro and a 'spin-off' in 1971 called Zatoichi to Yojimbo.

The 'preachiness' of some earlier Kurosawa movies is absent in this story of the mercenary Sanjuro played by Toshir Mifune who, in typically mesmeric fashion, steals the film. The movie also features Eijir Tono as Gonji, the Sake Seller, Kamatari Fujiwara as Tazaemon and Takashi Shimura as Tokuemon.

Extras:
- Moving menus and a full commentary by Philip Kemp

User avatar
porquenegar
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:33 pm

#2 Post by porquenegar » Thu Nov 11, 2004 7:24 pm

reaky wrote:I see that in the new BFI DVD catalogue, under the listing for YOJIMBO is the subheading 16x9 anamorphic. Does anyone know if the BFI is planning to reissue its current (distinctly non-anamorphic) edition?
Isn't the correct aspect ration 1.66:1?

User avatar
The Digital McGuffin
Voyeurising the voyeurs
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 8:27 am
Location: CGILand, London

#3 Post by The Digital McGuffin » Thu Nov 11, 2004 8:16 pm

Looks like an error in the catalogue. The BFI website list it as non anamorphic 2.35:1 and with the very same cataloglue number, cover etc.

The new catalogue also shows it ready to order so they wouldn't want to have people paying for a future release and having to wait around unexpectedly for it.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

#4 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Nov 11, 2004 10:50 pm

porquenegar wrote:Isn't the correct aspect ration 1.66:1?
Oh my, no. Kurosawa in this period of his career used strictly the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This started with The Hidden Fortress in 1958 and ended with Red beard in 1965.

unclehulot
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 3:09 pm
Location: here and there

#5 Post by unclehulot » Thu Nov 11, 2004 10:59 pm

porquenegar wrote:Isn't the correct aspect ration 1.66:1?
Sure hope you haven't seen it in that ratio!

User avatar
cafeman
Leningrad Cowboy
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 10:19 am

Kurosawa: High and Low

#6 Post by cafeman » Fri Jan 14, 2005 5:55 pm

At last a chance to buy some anamorphic, probably great, transfers of Kurosawa, especially High and Low which is now an higher-tier-priced, barebones non-anamorphic film with 16X9 unfriendly subs.

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

UPCOMING TITLES / KUROSAWA

#7 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Feb 16, 2005 9:49 am

It is a shame about the list as the titles I love the bfi for putting out are things like Piccadilly, South, all the Archive TV collection etc. Perhaps it might be the case that they gave a lot of earlier titles a big push (more likely that they've just had longer to accumulate in number of buyers though).

I remember finding in my local high street shops in Buxton copies of Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, and these aren't stores where subtitled films are commonly found on the shelves like the bigger branches in Manchester etc. Was very pleasantly surprised, but it seemed like it was only a one-off. Oh well, back to mail order and occasional trips to 'the big city'!

cmleidi
Joined: Sat Nov 06, 2004 3:26 am

Kurosawa

#8 Post by cmleidi » Sun Feb 27, 2005 3:19 pm

Does anyone if there will be extras on the Kurosawa discs? I'd like to use the 10% discount at Benson's World.

User avatar
4LOM
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:10 pm
Location: Rheda-Wiedenbrueck / Germany
Contact:

UPCOMING TITLES

#9 Post by 4LOM » Tue Mar 08, 2005 7:14 pm

cmleidi wrote:Does anyone if there will be extras on the Kurosawa discs? I'd like to use the 10% discount at Benson's World.
Only sleeve notes by film historian Philip Kemp.

See the press releases (all PDF files).

High and Low

I live in Fear

Sixth Happiness will feature an audio commentary by Firdaus Kanga and an interview with Firdaus Kanga and Waris Hussein.

User avatar
ellipsis7
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 1:56 pm
Location: Dublin

Kurosawa

#10 Post by ellipsis7 » Thu Jun 09, 2005 3:58 pm

BFI Kurosawa releases THE BAD SLEEP WELL & DRUNKEN ANGEL come on 25th July... IL BIDONE must be in August...

User avatar
antnield
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:59 pm
Location: Cheltenham, England

Kurosawa

#11 Post by antnield » Thu Jun 30, 2005 5:31 am

ellipsis7 wrote:BFI Kurosawa releases THE BAD SLEEP WELL & DRUNKEN ANGEL come on 25th July... IL BIDONE must be in August...
Also out on 25th July is 'Burning an Illusion', the second in a trio of 'Black Britain' releases started by their superb package of 'Looking for Langston' (just released) and to be concluded with Horace Ove's 'Pressure' (due September).

User avatar
antnield
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:59 pm
Location: Cheltenham, England

#12 Post by antnield » Wed Aug 03, 2005 11:54 am

DVD Times review for Drunken Angel

User avatar
antnield
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:59 pm
Location: Cheltenham, England

#13 Post by antnield » Tue Aug 09, 2005 10:42 am



User avatar
antnield
Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 1:59 pm
Location: Cheltenham, England

#15 Post by antnield » Mon Dec 26, 2005 9:27 am


User avatar
Matango
Joined: Mon Aug 01, 2005 1:19 am
Location: Hong Kong

Kurosawa box

#16 Post by Matango » Mon Feb 06, 2006 8:55 am

Anyone read the review of the BFI Kurosawa box set in this month's S&S? Seems a bit gushing to me, considering that these are far from the best discs available. Then again, it is a BFI publication, I guess.

User avatar
foggy eyes
Joined: Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:58 am
Location: UK

#17 Post by foggy eyes » Thu Aug 21, 2008 6:18 am

The rights for Rashomon must have lapsed - a special edition is coming from Optimum in October:
Extras: Introduction by John Boorman / A Testimony As An Image: Rashomon documentary / 2 trailers / booklet featuring original stories the film was based on and The Emperor & The Wolf chapter from book about Kurosawa and Mifune.

User avatar
ellipsis7
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 1:56 pm
Location: Dublin

#18 Post by ellipsis7 » Thu Aug 21, 2008 7:37 am

foggy eyes wrote:The rights for Rashomon must have lapsed - a special edition is coming from Optimum in October:
Extras: Introduction by John Boorman / A Testimony As An Image: Rashomon documentary / 2 trailers / booklet featuring original stories the film was based on and The Emperor & The Wolf chapter from book about Kurosawa and Mifune.
Cue Boorman on working with Mifune on HELL IN THE PACIFIC... Hmmm...

User avatar
Rob
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2011 11:40 am

BFI Kurosawa Blu-rays

#19 Post by Rob » Wed Aug 03, 2011 11:10 am

In the July 2010 edition of Sight and Sound the BFI made the following announcement:
"The BFI releases the five-film ‘Samurai Collection’ DVD box-set on 7 June, followed by a new Blu-ray edition of Seven Samurai in October – the first in a series of Kurosawa Blu-rays."
Does anyone know what's happened to these Blu-rays? I've been holding off getting the Criterion discs as I'm in the UK, and only got my BR player modified last week, but I'd like to know what's going on. Any ideas?

User avatar
RossyG
Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 5:50 pm

Re: Akira Kurosawa

#20 Post by RossyG » Wed Aug 03, 2011 1:45 pm

The BFI haven't announced their October releases yet. Nor have they popped up as pre-orders on Amazon, but it shouldn't be too long.

Jonathan S
Joined: Sat Jun 07, 2008 3:31 am
Location: Somerset, England

Re: Akira Kurosawa

#21 Post by Jonathan S » Thu Aug 04, 2011 1:58 am

From Rob's post, I assumed the announcement referred to last October...

User avatar
Rob
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2011 11:40 am

Re: Akira Kurosawa

#22 Post by Rob » Thu Aug 04, 2011 4:57 am

I assumed that it did refer to October 2010. The announcement was made here: http://www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound/feature/49625" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; - it's the final paragraph on the page (immediately above the 'see also' section).
I've emailed the BFI, but so far have not heard anything. If they do get back to me I'll let you know.

User avatar
RossyG
Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 5:50 pm

Re: Akira Kurosawa

#23 Post by RossyG » Thu Aug 04, 2011 5:02 am

Ah, I see. My mistake.

User avatar
Rob
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2011 11:40 am

Re: Akira Kurosawa

#24 Post by Rob » Mon Aug 08, 2011 5:56 pm

I got this response from one of the BFI's Press Officers:
"Thank you for your email. I'm afraid that I have no further news on this at present. So far as I know we definitely plan to release titles on Blu-ray (they would most likely be Dual Format Editions) but they are not scheduled at the moment. If I hear any more information I will let you know."

User avatar
Peacock
Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2008 7:47 pm
Location: Scotland

Re: Akira Kurosawa

#25 Post by Peacock » Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:59 pm

I hope BFI consider upgrading I Live in Fear seeing as it's the only (?) non-mainline Kurosawa which BFI haven't released in their Early Kurosawa set and which they have the rights to. In other words... Criterion will probably never release this in HD so like the Ozu's from the Late Eclipse, I hope BFI will jump in here...

Post Reply