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Akira Kurosawa : The Master of Film

Akira Kurosawa is perhaps one of the most influential and masterful directors of our time. Yet, he isn’t talked about as much as the Spielbergs or Scorseses of the world. Besides film buffs, many don’t realize that the work and technique of Akira Kurosawa, a man who has brought Japanese Cinema directly into the limelight, is responsible for creating films that have inspired the classics we know today. Here is a list of Akira Kurosawa’s best and the films that he has inspired with his tremendous career. 



Red Beard (1965)

Akira Kurosawa’s subtle and emotional human story was his final collaboration with Toshiro Mifune, an actor who has worked with Kurosawa in nearly every film leading up to this.  In Red Beard, Mifune plays Dr. Niide, a strict doctor who has such compassion for all of his patients, who helps a stubborn young intern realize that being a doctor and helping the sick is a job that requires not only extensive skill and knowledge, but more importantly, having a heart and tending to the patients, who all have stories and compassion as well. Red Beard is a moving and slow-burn picture, more focused on its characters more than story. It’s Mifune’s most subtle acting work and his performance with Kurosawa’s direction made this a beautiful motion picture. 




Ikiru is perhaps Kurosawa’s most human film. The story is of a 70 year old man who discovers he has stomach cancer and decides that he wants to make something of his life before he passes. It’s as heartbreaking as it is touching as it delves into the themes of death and life and how every day should be lived with meaning and with purpose. Time is precious and the legacy we leave behind should matter more to us than anyone else. 



The Hidden Fortress

This was the film that directly influenced George Lucas when it came to Star Wars. This comedy/action/adventure film is an exciting fun time and perhaps the least serious and most mainstream of his works. Toshiro Mifune is once again excellent and the action and cinematography is stellar work.



Stray Dog

This often forgotton crime/detective story about a cop who desperately seeks his gun that was stolen from him displayed Kurosawa’s ability to tell and shoot an engaging and exciting film from start to finish. Thanks to the combination of sleek detective crime story elements and a powerful performance by the 1st of many Kurosawa collaborated performances by Toshiro Mifune as the cop seeking his gun, Stray is a must see and a great stepping stone to Kurosawa’s career.




Yojimbo is the film that inspired the Man with No Name western trilogy with Clint Eastwood. This film is in fact a beat for beat as compared the A Fistful of Dollars, which came out about 3 years later. Yojimbo was a film that influenced the smart hustler who’s a talented fighter out-hustling the hustlers genre. Mifune is brilliant and funny as the smart and often-grumpy scheming Sanjuro and the atmosphere and clever story of both sides of a village being played by Sanjuro is a joy to watch. 




The first film to ever use the flashback from multiple perspective storyboard and perhaps the best film to use that format. Rashomon tells three version of the same event that involve a criminal, a samurai, and his wife. Each story is different in that each medium it’s told from certain perspectives lies heavily within the favor of its teller. Therefore, the question of truth and humanity is questioned within what truth really is and how it can never be objective. That humanity in hindsight, are prideful and hypocritical human beings, but that does not mean we are devoid of having hope to be better individuals. Rashomon is a deep and hard hitting film that isn’t about which story told was the right one, but exactly why each one was so different is something the audience needs to take in and examine and look within our own souls. 



Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai is often hailed Kurosawa’s finest work, and it should be and has every right to be. This three and a half hour epic is a story packed with so much emotional punch, the final frame of the film with the closing line that dictates the end of an era in Japanese history is haunting and beautiful. Every single performance is masterful and every frame of action moves with such fluidity and craft, that the film itself can be a lesson filmmaking and editing. This film is exciting, sad, and triumphant. 



High and Low

Kurosawa’s high and low is a step away from the samurai and epic films of his career and instead is a thrilling story of a wealthy businessman who has to make the tough decision to pay a ransom that will save a child that belongs to his chaffeur, but it comes at the cost of his career. The first half is a thrilling masterpiece that takes place in just two locations; a living room and a train. This half deals with the morality of the protagonist and the decision that he must make to save a life. The second half is a detective story that inspired the likes of crime television shows, focusing entirely on the investigation of the police department to capture the kidnapper. High and Low is a perfect film. 




Kurosawa adapted King Lear with Japanese folklore and culture to create a stunning and beautiful colored film bursting with gorgeous cinematography and production/costume design. The tragic tale of a King giving sections of rule to his sons which turns into a blood bath of power and betrayal is haunting and masterful in the way Kurosawa builds up in the tension in his story. It’s his most beautiful looking film, his most tragic, and his masterpiece for the ages. Every frame, every moment of silence, dialogue, set piece, and moments of carnage and chaos is epic on every scale and stands as Kurosawa’s life work put into a masterpiece of storytelling and character development.



Throne of Blood

Throne of Blood is the best Shakespeare adaptation of all time. It is perhaps one of the greatest films ever made. Period. The cinematograpahy, pacing, editing, costume design, acting, is all perfect. There are not enough words to describe how truly amazing this film is. 



I love reading, writing and especially watching films :) Movies and writing about them inspire to dream beyond reality :)
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