Akira Kurosawa ( 1910-1998 ) applied Western philosophy to Eastern themes in films that appealed to both worlds, but not always for the same reasons. Kurosawa used a narrative style to recount his stories, a form of cinematic deconstruction that gave a literary and theatrical form to the work. Often, a sense of timelessness is illustrated through an anachronistic assemblage of anecdotes, vignettes, and personal accounts, and deliberate pacing elicits a sense that his stories are unfolding in real-time. The protagonists stories unfold indirectly, in a peripheral manner, enhanced by his use of distancing the cameras from the actors and shooting with telephoto lenses.
His style contains the kernel of low budget filmmaking done in an excessive, painstaking and detailed manner. He had a tightly woven style, where the scenes follow one another relentlessly, switching abruptly from stillness to action and back again.Kurosawa was a perfectionist. Most of his footage was edited by himself himself and he exerted absolute control over all phases of production.
Comments about rebirth and restitution have been a persistent theme in Kurosawa’s films; and it suggests , along with less tangible influences, the contribution of the director’s early interest in Dostoevsky.Kurosawa read The Idiot and Crime and Punishment over and over again as a youngster. Issues of unresolved despair are common. Often mutual antagonism serves as a parable on the responsibilities of compassion. Kurosawa once said of Dostoevsky, ” I know of no one so compassionate… ordinary people turn their eyes away from tragedy; he looks straight into it”. Kurosawa used cinema as a means of interpreting unresolved despair this often lead to profound reevaluations thhat challenged popular conception; the ambiguity between hero and villain,the subtle similarities between worthless failures and success. There is always a door open for resurrection and rebirth in films about flawed, less than ideal, but good human beings which ran counter to the Japanese tradition of obligatory unhappy endings.
In the Seven Samurai,also known as The Magnificent Seven, Kurosawa makes apparent that the samurai were fighting only for themselves, fighting for an ideal that those of them who survive came to understand as hollow. the supposed heros were self victimized by an empty, sham heroism fed on ego where the ruling passions are disguised as noble determination and pride. Samurai and bandits were revealed as one, equally defeated; but the villagers, the enduring people of the world, oblivious to the ”brave” deeds, planted new rice in the Spring. The film remains Kurosawa’s strongest statement of the moral theme common to all his films, which is that human frailty must be accepted; but not passively , for people may overcome adversity to achieve their own salvation.
But, aside from the uncanny sense of what audiences wanted, there is a persistent experimental thread running throughout Kurosawa’s work. All of his five films from 1965 to 1985 were potential career-ending gambles, and the Japanese film industry, which was undergoing the first of several transitional periods, was particularly unforgiving toward them.These included Red Beard which took two years to produce so that his actors and sets had the necessary lived-in and used effect that he wanted, and the off-beat unpleasantness of Dodes’ ka-den whose eccentric characters inhabit a garbage dump. Kurosawa was considered so “un-bankable” by Japanese film financiers due to excessive production costs that Kurosawa had to resort to foreign investment. France’s Serge Silberman financed Ran ( 1985 ) – for what was Kurosawa’s ultimate statement as an artist, the dauntingly grave transposition of Shakespeare’s King Lear to medieval Japan. This film stands in Kurosawa’s work as the opera Otelo stands in Verdi’s as a final, statement of his philosophy and one of the most grand films of the past 25 years.
One Kurosawa film,The Lower Depths, from 1957, may be the most consistently underrated.Kurosawa felt emboldened to attempt an adaptation of Maxim Gorky’s play, and it is a major achievement.Not surprisingly, the lack of clear categorization, this inability of the public to determine the context,and make easy connections, enlists a sense of incomprehension.The juxtapositions were unfamiliar , and rooted in feudal tradition and modern conditions. The historical perspective lifted perception outside the edges of traditional acceptance, making categorization and labelling impossible.