Timeless Films of Movie Director Akira Kurosawa

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01_七人の侍ポスター

Poster of Seven Samurai

 

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02_七人の侍撮影風景

Filming location of Seven Samurai

 

 

Children are enthusiastic about white-hat heroes. They sometimes play police officers with guns and sometimes begin a sword fight like samurais with tree branches as swords.

However, as they get older, the enthusiasm becomes gradually burned out and they no longer engaged in the play. In the first place, it is eccentric and surreal that university students play samurai on campus!

With maturity, do we forget the yearning for friends of justice? The answer is no. Adults just live up to our social norms, but boyish or girlish feelings always exist in our mind.

Only one hero scourges black hats. Clap and cheer for the wonderful story are not children’s privilege. While expressing the adult world, some works raise the memory of childhood. They are the films of Akira Kurosawa!

 

 

Strong Sense of Justice

 

 

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03_用心棒

Eternal hero played as Toshiro Mifune

 

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The strong oppress the weak and swagger along in the streets of a town. It is really an ugly scene, but many people tremble in fear and do nothing. History has had the unreasonable situations anywhere and anytime. This is why we applaud heroes facing up to the evil strong.

Kurosawa’s cool sense of justice represents the eternal masterpieces “Seven Samurai” and “Yojimbo.

 

Seven Samurai

Every year picking season of barley rolls around, a village is looted thoroughly by bandits. Villagers are trying to employ samurais to protect their village. However, since samurai warriors and farmers were clearly distinguished by feudalistic class system at that time, therefore many samurais decline the offer, saying that “I cannot stand being employed by farmers”. At long last, seven samurais taking on the offer stand up heroically.

 

Yojimbo

Two opposing gangs throw a post town into disorder. A samurai wandering aimlessly happens to come there. He gets over a lot of difficulties and exterminates those two gangs with a strong sense of justice. The samurai played as Toshiro Mifune finally left the town with no price just saying “Adios so long!”

Seeing the film, I also want to go on a wandering journey and to be a hero who sides with the weak and crushes the strong just using single sword. It is a wonderful imagination but in the real world I would be arrested on suspicion of the Swords and Firearms Control Law.

 

Kurosawa’s perspective of society

Kurosawa comments on gangs in his book.

“Although there is a certain amount of truth in the idea that social contradictions bring about gangs, it is just a sophistry to justify criminals whose existence attributes to the society. It is because this thinking ignores people who do not turn to crimes in a flawed society.”

In fact, seven samurais are also forced to be isolated by losing wars and the hero of Yojimbo turns his back on the complicated social ties and live an unfettered life. That doesn’t mean they become outlaws. Poor as they are, their moral attitude never change at any circumstances.

It’s tremendously cool!

 

Kurosawa’s Masterpieces

Embracing the Works of Shakespeare and Japanese Traditional Stage Art “Noh”

 

 

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04_蜘蛛巣城

Throne of Blood

 

 

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Dance of the Ghost in the stage art called “Noh”

 

 

The story of right and wrong is really so sweet. However, if Kurosawa had attached his mind only to the theme, he would not gain his fame. Every people has the darkness of mind. The good are suddenly aware of their dark heart within themselves, become steeped in evil and head down the path of destruction. Well, human beings cannot be clearly distinguished on the basis of the good or the evil. In other words, we can be the good and the evil by a twist of fate.

To express this deep theme, Kurosawa adopted the story of “Macbeth” and “King Rear” written by Shakespeare to the screen. It is surprised that he recreated and changed the English masterpieces into the story of the age of provincial war in Japan. For Japanese audience, it is better to understand. Even so, he did the unthinkable! Is this the act of a genius?

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06_Shakespeare

Shakespeare

 

 

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07_Macbeth

Macbeth

 

 

Throne of Blood

I would like to explain the film named “Throne of Blood” whose original piece is “Macbeth”.

The story begins calmly, projecting the image of a castle ruin. Then the tragedy which happened there starts in a deep fog. This is exactly the same as the stagecraft of Japanese classic stage art named “Noh”. Its main characters wear a peculiar Noh mask and they are sometimes ghosts. Musical instruments used in the film are Japanese flutes and hand drums which are indispensable to Noh.

Macbeth who killed Duncan I and ascended the throne rises from the dead as a samurai warrior in Japan in the midst of provincial wars. The story unfolds as if Macbeth recited his own life.

This film, “Throne of Blood” expresses Macbeth as a ghost of a dead Japanese warrior in the style of samurai dramas. And It also adopts Noh technique whose main character of choice is a ghost. Samurai Macbeth dies a violent death and the film ends with the castle ruin projected on a screen.

The first and end scene of the film is the place where warriors wage a bloody battle for the throne. It implies that our audience has seen a ghost’s story before his death.

This works incorporates the essence and technique from all ages and cultures, which means Kurosawa was really endowed with a gift from the God.

 

 

 

Episodes in Filming and Outstanding Camera Technique

 

 

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07黒澤明のイラスト

Akira Kurosawa

 

 

I think one of the most fascinating characteristics of Kurosawa works is to express not only the images but also the atmosphere of the age on the screen when he filmed the samurai dramas. How were these scene shoot? As is often the case with persons who do a wonderful job, Kurosawa was a perfectionist and kept an uncompromising attitude about movies. Let me introduce some interesting episodes in filming.

 

  1. Real arrows were fired around Toshiro Mifune in the last scene of “The Throne of Blood”.
  2. Looking at clouds in the sky, Kurosawa shouted “Move the clouds away!”
  3. When just tracking a walking samurai, he did the same shot again and again because the actor could not show the weight of a sword while walking.
  4. Kurosawa built and burned a huge castle at the cost of \400 million ($10 million at the exchange rate in 1985) for filming the scene of flames.
  5. The second floor part of a private house was destructed not to cause an obstruction. (After filming, it was rebuild.)
  6. Although 700 movie extras were gathered, that day Kurosawa stopped filming, saying that 200 fall short.

 

Kurosawa’s obsessiveness with details was caused by his strong motivation to make his works perfect. However, troubles such as clash with a leading man or staff members sometimes happened. In the process, he was nicknamed “emperor”.

His video expression includes all like a big picture and details. Here, let’s listen to expert’s views.

Ladies and gentlemen, now we start the movie.

 

 

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Every Frame A Painting by Tony

Expert’s explanation of composing movement

 

A Message for You from Kurosawa

 

 

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Ikiru ‘Gondola no uta’

Many entertainment works of Kurosawa carry strong messages. In this article I feature his pure sense of justice and elaborate expressions of human inner darkness. I end with account of his masterpiece “To Live” or “Ikiru”.

A city officer just routinely goes to work and lives his life like a clock-watcher. By a mere accident, he knows he gets cancer and is destined to die. Today, the disease does not always mean death, but the word used to be tantamount to death sentence.

While he gets desperate and indulges in debauchery, an idea comes to his mind. It is that he makes his mark on the world. He decides to build a small public garden for children which local people have hoped. In spite of formalistic ways of city hall and other various hindrances, he moves toward the achievement with heart and soul as if he were a different person. The small park is completed at last. And he dies on a swing in the small garden. However, his last expression looks a sense of contentment.

“Do you really live? Do you waste your life?” The screen realistically carries the message from Kurosawa.

 

 

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11_生きる 志村喬

Absolutely essential actor “Takashi Shimura” for Kurosawa films

 

 

 

My heartfelt thanks to the photos or illustrations offered specially by

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Toho Co.,Ltd.

In alphabetical order.