I was flipping channels and came to rest on Turner Classic Movies and what looked like an interesting Japanese film. It seemed to be about this cool, compassionate doctor (who could also beat up the local thugs) and his relationship with a younger intern at a 19th century medical clinic for the poor.
I was watching Akahige (Red Beard) (1965). I probably missed the first 30 minutes or so, but I sat enthralled until the end.
Low and behold, as Robert Osborne introduced the next film, I realized I had stumbled onto a Kurosawa marathon! I managed to tape eight or nine films, including Shubun (Scandal) (1950), and Dodesukaden (1970), both of which remained commercially unavailable for years. I was thankful to have them.
As I posted here, watching these films helped me out of a writer's block I had been going through. I experienced an unusual sensation watching Kurosawa, unlike any I'd ever experienced with most other filmmakers: the feeling of being carried along in a magnificent story, while at the same time being aware of how the auteur's distinctive imprint is conspicuously apparent in the storytelling.
Kurosawa’s use of the wipe fascinated me from the start. It was a big part of that “distinctive imprint” that seemed to make the films so unique.
So I’ve been studying these films for nearly ten years. They continue to inspire me, and to that end I have made literal (or near-literal) transcriptions of the first ten films and "review"-type posts for 28 of the 30 films, for my own edification and amusement, hoping of course to introduce his genius to newcomers and share with the like-minded Kurosawa fanatic.
Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998) directed 30 films between 1943 and 1993 -- 17 gendai-mono (modern dramas) and 13 jidai-geki (period films). All of them can be considered shakai-mono (films with “social” themes)...
The list is color-coded per the above two genre distinctions, and the films in which Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura appear are marked [TM] (16 films) and [TS] (21 films).
- Sugata sanshiro (Judo Saga) (1943) [TS] (Review)
- Ichiban utsukushiku (The Most Beautiful) (1944) [TS] (Review)
- Tora no o wo fumu otokotachi (The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail) (1945) [TS] (Review)
- Zoku sugata sanshiro (Judo Saga II) (1945) (Review)
- Waga seishun ni kuinashi (No Regrets for Our Youth) (1946) [TS] (Review)
- Subarashiki nichiyobi (One Wonderful Sunday) (1947) (Review)
- Yoidore tenshi (Drunken Angel) (1948) [TM] [TS] (Review)
- Shizukanaru ketto (The Quiet Duel) (1949) [TM] [TS] (Review)
- Nora inu (Stray Dog) (1949) [TM] [TS] (Review)
- Shubun (Scandal) (1950) [TM] [TS] (Review)
- Rashomon (In the Woods) (1950) [TM] [TS]
- Hakuchi (The Idiot) (1951) [TM] [TS]
- Ikiru (To Live) (1952) [TS]
- Shichinin no samurai (The Seven Samurai) (1954) [TM] [TS]
- Ikimono no kiroku (I Live in Fear/Record of a Living Being) (1955) [TM] [TS]
- Kumonosu jo (Throne of Blood) (1957) [TM] [TS]
- Donzoko (The Lower Depths) (1957) [TM]
- Kakushi toride no san akunin (The Hidden Fortress) (1958) [TM] [TS]
- Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru (The Bad Sleep Well) (1960) [TM] [TS]
- Yojimbo (The Bodyguard) (1961) [TM] [TS]
- Tsubaki Sanjûro (1962) [TM] [TS]
- Tengoku to jigoku (High and Low) (1963) [TM] [TS]
- Akahige (Red Beard) (1965) [TM] [TS]
- Dodesukaden (1970)
- Dersu Uzala (1975)
- Kagemusha (The Double/Shadow Warrior) (1980) [TS]
- Ran (Chaos) (1985)
- Yume (Akira Kurosawa's Dreams) (1990)
- Hachigatsu no kyoshikyoku (Rhapsody in August) (1991)
- Madadayo (Not Yet) (1993)
The following is a list of some of my source material:
Stephen Prince: "The Warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa," (Princeton University Press (1991/1999) [SP]
Stuart Galbraith IV: "The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune," Faber and Faber (2001) [SG]
Donald Richie: "The Films of Akira Kurosawa," University of California Press (1998) [DR]
Akira Kurosawa: "Something Like an Autobiography," Vintage Books (1983) [AK]
James Goodwin: "Akira Kurosawa and Intertextual Cinema," The John Hopkins University Press (1994) [JG]
Kyoko Hirano: "Japanese Cinema: Mr. Smith Goes to Tokyo under the American Occupation, 1945-1952," (1992) [KH]
Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto: "Kurosawa: Film Studies and Japanese Cinema," Duke University Press (2000) [MY]