Αkira Kurosawa

Αkira Kurosawa | lesoleilfoundation

Akira Kurosawa



Αkira Kurosawa is considered one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema and his films have indeed left a mark on entire generations of subsequent directors. Vangelis Rassias met him at Cannes.

Vangelis Rassias met Akira Kurosawa at Cannes, where they worked together twice. This photo was taken in 1990, when the director had made the film “Dreams”.

He had accepted to meet the media at the Eden-Roc Hotel, when at some point, he suddenly closed his eyes and declared, “The master feels tired. Kindly retire!” The photo captures that precise moment!

Kurosawa studied painting and in reality that is why he used to make the film storyboards in the form of large paintings. He started his cinematic career in 1936 as an assistant directorand then, in 1943 he directed his first film, “Sanshiro Sugata”. He pursued his cinematic career until the ’90s, directing more than 30 films. 

One of his most well-known film is entitled “Rashōmon”. The film was based on the short story “Yabu no Naka” (and not on “Rashōmon”, the short story from which it borrows the title) by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa; it received such praise by both film critics and the audience that the Western film markets was actually intrigued by the Japanese film industry. Thus,  a newchapter started for cinem a history. 

“Rashōmon” depicts a murder through fourdiffering, almost contradictory accounts of four witnesses. Kurosawa captures i n his ownunique way, the compl exities of observing an irrational world, through the eyes of a unique Japanese author. 

Some of his fellow compatriots may have accused him of bringing the West into Japan, but it was actually he who influenced the Western cinema, more than anyone else has.

He has been dubbed the “emperor” of cinema. During his long career, Akira  Kurosawamanaged to leave his distinctive mark on the international cinema industry. 

Francis Ford Copola had once pointed out that “what makes Kurosawa so special is that he did not direct just a couple of masterpieces but eight of them”. To be more accurate, he direct edmany more masterpieces, as he was capable ofmaking several high-quality films, and is perhaps the only filmmaker without any failures in his cinematic career. That aspect is in itself an incomparable achievement.

The 1923 earthquake and the suicide attempt

This past March, it was the  110th anniversary ofKurosawa’s birth (23/3/1910). The director wasdeeply overwhelmed  by the big Tokyoearthquake in  1923; the memories of that dreary view taught him of “the extraordinary powers of nature” and the “extraordinary things that lie in human hearts” as he indicates in his autobiography. This was perhaps the reasonwhy , following a failed suicide attempt, and while completely  disappointed by the disdain he experienced in his own country , in the early’70s, he found inside him the strength for an impressive comeback, giving the international film industry additional masterpieces, spearheaded by the famous “Ran”, which left speechless even his own fans.

The Samurai code of honor

Kurosawa was the youngest member of a largefamily and his father was the descendant  ofSamurai. The director admired his fathe r for hismoral values, which were often depicted in several of his films, given that the Samurai code of honor is omnipresent and has been almost fully explored. 

It is perhaps a better idea to look at cinem athrough his own eyes, through  his ownthoughts, expressed in  his book entitled“Something l ike an autobiography”, reflecting on the basic principles of cinema.

Cinema is cinema!

“Cinema resembles so many other arts. If cinema has very literary characteristics,  it alsohas theatrical  qualities, a philosophical side, attributes of painting and sculpture and musicalelements. But, cinema is, in the final analysis, cinema.”

“With a good script a good director can produce a masterpiece; with the same script a mediocredirector can make a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can’t possibly make a good film.”

“Something that you should take particular notice of is the fact that the best scripts have very few explanatory passages. Adding explanation to the descriptive passages of a screenplay is the most dangerous trap you can fall into.”

“I believe it is this quality [deep emotion] that draws people to come and see a film, and that it is the hope of attaining this quality that inspires the filmmaker…”

Ideas as seeds about to sprout and creation asa memory

“When I begin to consider a film project, I always have in mind a number of ideas that feel as if they would be the sort of thing I'd like to film. From among these, one will suddenly germinate and begin to sprout; this will be the one I grasp and develop. I have never taken on a project offered to me by a producer or a production company.”

“I've forgotten who it was that said creation is memory. My own experiences and the various things I have read remain in my memory and become the basis upon which I create something new.”

Actors before the camera

“The worst thing an actor can do is show his awareness of the camera”.

“The camera should follow the  actor as hemoves; it should stop when he stops. If this rule is not followed, the audience will become conscious of the camera”.

The secret about Light

“I think, for example, that the current method of lighting for color film is wrong. In order to bring out the colors, the entire frame is flooded with light. I always say the lighting should be treated as it is for black-and-white film, whether the colors are strong or not…”

Cut it in the editing

“The most important requirement for editing is objectivity [...] You may have been full of enthusiasm during the filming of a particular shot, but if that enthusiasm doesn't show on the screen, you must be objective enough to cut it.”

Κurosawa loved important direc tors but trulyadmired John Ford, who was the reason he actually wrote his autobiography. Even though,at the beginning, he refused to have his biography published, he changed his opinion, based on Ford’s case, as he was once heard complaining, “ unfortunately he did not leave us his autobiography…”