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A Kurosawa Mash Note

Yesterday was what would have been the 100th birthday of film director Akira Kurosawa. I made note of that only because I have been a fan of his films for many years.  I spent a large part of my childhood growing up in Japan and I have an appreciation for all aspects of the culture there.  I’m a big film buff and as any film fan will tell you, Kurosawa is one of the all time greatest film makers.  He has influenced and inspired generations of film makers.  Personally I like his films because of his great script writing, attention to detail and his artistic approach.  It was his method to draw or paint every scene during pre-production then work closely with his cinematographers to attain the vision he had in his head and on paper.  This usually resulted in many visually arresting moments in his films.  He worked both in color and black and white.  Many of his black and white films are quite beautiful to look at even though the subject matter can be brutal; Rashomon, Yojimbo and Red Beard are examples of this. 

My absolute favorite Kurosawa movie and a good entrance for new comers to this director’s work is High and Low. This movie is the mother of all police procedural TV shows like Law and Order.  Even though it was made in 1963 the plot still carries contextual weight today. I won’t reveal anything specific about the film’s story, but if you like crime melodrama it doesn’t get much better than this. There are some terrifically interesting scenes in the film most notably a one take shot on a moving train that is mind-boggling in its audacity and complexity.  Towards the end of the film there is a bar scene that’s choreographed like a Bob Fosse dance routine.  And most of all there is the slowly simmering, high intensity performance from Kurosawa’s favorite actor and frenemy, Toshiro Mifune.  High and Low contains nearly all of the Kurosawa hallmarks; great story, technical brilliance, full bore acting and beautiful cinematography.  There’s a reason why modern directors like martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppala,  and Quentin Tarantino all pay homage to Kurosawa and count him as their number one influence.  Watch some of his films if you haven’t, and if you have, watch them again and enjoy the gifts given to us by a great artist.


Mar. 25th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
Turner Classic Movies Channel has been playing Kurasawa films almost non-stop for the last couple of days. I was quite taken with one of his earliest films about an old civil servant who discovers he has cancer and consequently decides he wants to make a difference in the time he has left.