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Essential Kurosawa films? (1 Viewer)

Douglas*A*R

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I've got a problem. I've never seen a Kurosawa film, and I was wondering what you guys thought were his, say, top 5 movies on DVD to get me started, and why.
 

Brian PB

Supporting Actor
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Jan 31, 2003
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I would first rent Rashomon, which I think is his best Samurai film (and probably his best film overall). If you enjoy it, the Criterion DVD is excellent. If you enjoy the Samurai stuff & want to pursue that, the Criterion Akira Kurosawa: Four Samurai Classics release will get you three essential films (The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, The Hidden Fortress) and one lesser film (Sanjuro) for about $65 online (a steal for Criterions).

Next, I'd sample two Shakespearean adaptations, Throne of Blood (based on MacBeth/available next week from Criterion) and Ran (based on King Lear/available from Wellspring--get the newer "Masterworks" edition: not perfect, but infinitely better than the previous Fox Lorber version).

The two essential non-Samurai, non-Shakespearean films for me are Red Beard (available from Criterion) and Ikiru (not yet on DVD, but expected from Criterion in the next year).

Overall, I would rent before you buy (some people don't respond to Kurosawa). If I had to rank my top five, I'd choose:

1. Rashomon
2. The Seven Samurai
3. Ikiru
4. Throne of Blood
5. Red Beard
 

Steve_Ch

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Oct 14, 2001
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1. Rashomon

Have to do this, as it's probably the best known Kurosawa. Personally, I think Seven Samurai is a far superior film, nonetheless, if anybody wants to do Kurosawa, one just HAS to watch this. "As a film Rashomon is technically flawless, but lacks the resonance of Kursoawa's later works..", Stuart Galbraith IV, in his master work "The Emperor and the Wolf - The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune", I wholehearted agree.

2. The Seven Samurai

"When the AFI put out it's 100 greatest American films, it was met with great controversy. People argued all over what films deserved to be there and which ones didn't. Everyone had a substitute. Well, imagine that list if it were the 100 greatest films EVER made. Half the films in the top ten American films list wouldn't even be there. Sure, Citizen Kane would still be there -- there's no debating that. But, would it be number one? My answer to that is, quite simply -- nope. Akira Kurosawa's magnificent epic Seven Samurai would be the holder of that spot. You guys can fire out the e-mails all you want, but wait until I tell you why..." Todd Doogan, review of Criterion DVD, DigitalBits. I am with Todd on this one.

3. Red Beard

Among numerous accolades, this film marked the end of the Kurosawa-Mifune partnership, there have never been, before or since, in movie industry all over the world, any director-actor partnership, not Bergman-von Sydow, not Scorsese-deNiro, or anybody else, that comes even close to those two's accomplishment, enu' said.

4. High and Low

A departure from the "Samurai/Costume/Historic" that Kurosawa is so often associated with, a fantastic hardedge crime drama, also kind of a revisit of one of his early and also fantastic film: Stray Dog.

5. At this point, I think one should just pick one of the other films at random, as there are legit reasons for picking probably at least 10 more films from his work.
 

Joseph Hansen

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Mar 17, 2002
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Douglas,

They aren't Criterion versions, but I do have a pair of Kurosawa films listed in the "Software for Sale" area. They are the Mei Ah releases of Throne of Blood and Seven Samurai, shipped Media Mail for $13 for the pair.

Japanese soundtrack, English subtitles (although sometimes the English still needs some translating). They aren't Criterion quality, but they can give you a sampling of his works for a relatively cheap price.

Anyway, if you're interested, great; if not, then not great.

Joseph
 

BrentPollard

Second Unit
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Dec 18, 2001
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I have yet to see all of Kurosawa's films but of the ones I have seen I would consider
Throne Of Blood, The Seven Samurai, Rashamon, Ran, Hidden Fortress and Yojimbo to be good places to start. I'm going to pick up High And Low tomorrow, and throne Of Blood when it hits the streets,
 

andrew markworthy

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All the above are great movies, but please don't neglect some of his later works, set in the 20th century, and concerned with domestic issues. My personal favourite is Madadayo, which follows the (long) life of an inspirational teacher. When Hollywood or the Brits try this, you get schlock like Dead Poets Society or Goodbye Mr Chips. In Kurosawa's hands, similar material becomes elegaic.
 

Kevin M

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Rent RAN(1985) if only for the castle siege sequence, absolutely outstanding.

The new DVD is not outstanding but it is perhaps worth a rent if only for the rather good commentaries.
 

Ken_McAlinden

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Ikiru is my favorite, but it is very hard to make a wrong choice for a first film. Any of the following are recommended:

Ikiru
Seven Samurai
Rashômon
Ran
Yojimbo
Sanjuro (you may want to see Yojimbo first, but it is not essential)
Throne of Blood
High and Low
The Hidden Fortress
Dersu Uzala
Kagemusha
Drunken Angel
The Bad Sleep Well

...etc.

I wouldn't start with "Dreams". It is a well made film, but not necessarily a good introduction.

Regards,
 

Chad A Wright

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You can't go wrong by starting off with the 4 Samurai Classics box from Criterion. I paid $80 for mine when they first released it, and it was a steal even at that price. I thoroughly enjoyed all the films in the collection. It may seem like a big invenstment for something you don't know if you will like, but it will just make you want more. I had never seen a Kurosawa film before I bought this box. Seven Samurai was the first one I viewed and it was fantastic. I'm looking forward to Throne of Blood today.
 

Lew Crippen

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"When the AFI put out it's 100 greatest American films, it was met with great controversy. People argued all over what films deserved to be there and which ones didn't. Everyone had a substitute. Well, imagine that list if it were the 100 greatest films EVER made. Half the films in the top ten American films list wouldn't even be there. Sure, Citizen Kane would still be there -- there's no debating that. But, would it be number one?
Actually on the last Sight & Sound survey (done every 10 years and probably as good a measure as any) Citizen Kane was number one again. Seven Samurai came in at seven (Rashomon was in at nine).

Of course all of these films in the top ten or twenty would have plenty of supporters for number one. For me the absolute ranking makes no difference, as it is clear to almost everyone that this is one of the greatest films ever made.
 

Terry St

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Ran was previously released by Fox-Lorber in an absolutely abominable transfer. That's the version you're most likely to see in video rental stores since the new release of Ran is still very expensive. The new version is supposed to be an improvement, but then again, it would almost have to be! You probably won't see it in video rental stores until the limited edition box set run is done and they start selling Ran on its own. Personally, I've already been screwed once on Ran, so I'll wait for it to get a proper DVD treatment before I purchase it again.

Anyways, I must second the recommendation of "Seven Samurai" as the perfect starting point for any Kurosawa collection. It is one of his finest films, but it is also strongly influenced by American westerns and very action heavy. In other words, it won't be a huge stretch for first-time viewers used to hollywood fare. After that it should be easier to get into stuff like Red Beard and Rashomon, which are films of primarily raw emotional power rather than action.

You should note that Kurosawa is at the root of a rather surprising number of films. Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone's "Man with no Name" trilogy ("Fistfull of Dollars", "For a Few Dollars More", and "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) were the result of Kurosawa's Yojimbo. While Clint may be a Bad Mother, Mifune *is* "the man with no name", and always will be. "The Hidden Fortress" heavily influenced George Lucas when he made Star Wars. (to a much greater extent than he admits in his introduction on the Criterion disc) Countless other filmmakers have drawn inspiration from Kurosawa's films. Kurosawa's films are so well connected that you will inevitably be led to entire genres you had previously taken no notice of. In other words, kiss your DVD budget goodbye! :D
 

Lew Crippen

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And you left out the most obvious Terry: The Magnificent Seven, which is a Western remake of Seven Samurai.
 

Kevin M

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Netflix has the new RAN: Masterworks Edition for rent...I know because I am looking at it right now.

The masterworks transfer is better than the old one but it is still an insult to this film and film lovers in general IMO, this subject is discussed at length in THIS CURRENT THREAD.
 

DeeF

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I believe the digital animated movie, Ants, is a homage/parody of The Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai.
 

Kevin M

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Scott is right. A Bugs Life - Battle Beyond The Stars & to a smaller degree The Three Amigos also payed homage/ripped off Kurosawa.
 

Douglas*A*R

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Thank you very much for the replies, everyone. I'll be renting from Netflix before I decide to buy anything. Here's what I've got in my queue and should have in hand to watch next weekend:

Rashomon
Seven Samurai
The Hidden Fortress
Throne of Blood
Yojimbo
 

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