ASIAN FILM - Article
16:00 - 18th June 2014, by NEO Staff

PROFILE: Akira Kurosawa

Japan's best known director, Akira Kurosawa, made his debut in 1943 with Sanshiro Sugata (Judo Saga). But it was his masterpiece Rashomon (1950), which won top prize at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, that put him on the world stage. His later influenced filmmakers like George Lucas and Sergio Leone, and received an Oscar in 1989 for lifetime achievement. A master of his craft, the highly versatile Kurosawa has left behind a legacy that continues to live on. Spencer Lloyd Peet covers his best work.

Ikiru (1952)
Translated as To Live, Ikiru is a thoughtful tale set in modern times. It tells of Kanji Watanabe (Takashi Shimura), who is dying of cancer and forced to find meaning in his final days. The message Kurosawa conveys can be interpreted to mean that we all stand alone in this world and are responsible for ourselves - that life is meaningless unless we give it meaning. It's this realisation that liberates Watanabe, who finally appreciates what it means to 'live'.

Seven Samurai (1954)
Members of a farming village hire seven ronin (masterless samurai) to defend them from bandits who plan to steal their crops after the harvest. Hailed as one of the greatest films of all-time, Seven Samurai, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in April, is the quintessential samurai film, and the most influential. It is without doubt Kurosawa's best known film. What can be said about this work of genius that hasn't been said already? It's a masterclass in filmmaking and a timeless classic.

Throne of Blood (1957)
Kurosawa's regular leading actor Toshiro Mifune plays Washizu, husband to the ambitious Lady Asaji who persuades him to assassinate his master Lord Tsuzuki. Once the act is committed, they fall into mental torment as things turn nasty. Throne of Blood plays out like a dream shrouded in mist and fog, and has a chilling air of lunacy about it. Using the story of Macbeth as the template, the master director weaves his magic once again to create a work of art that stands the test of time. It also has arguably the greatest climax of any movie, which leaves us wondering 'how did they do that?'

Ran (1985)
Set in sixteenth century Japan during a time of feudal warfare, Ran tells the story of a family conflict. Due to his physical waning, Warlord Hidetora Ichimonji decides it's time to retire, and divides his kingdoms amongst his three sons, with his eldest being appointed ruler. This decision doesn't sit too well with the other two, who are bent on power and greed, and thus join forces to overthrow their elder brother. Devoid of power and outcast by his own sons, Ichimonji slowly descends into madness. With its breathtaking scenery, lavish set pieces and stunning costume designs, it's fair to say that Kurosawa's loose rendition of the Shakespeare play King Lear was his last great cinematic achievement.

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