Kurosawa! What is a must see!

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Terrell, Jan 4, 2002.

  1. Terrell

    Terrell Producer

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    Since I'm a big Star Wars fan, and Lucas has stated that Kurosawa was a big influence, what are some of his works that I must see? Curiously, I've never seen a Kurosawa film, other than his involvement in Tora! Tora! Tora! Also, are any of his films on DVD?
     
  2. Scott Calvert

    Scott Calvert Supporting Actor

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    I'd start with a "fun" Kurosawa flick. IMO, the best would be Yojimbo or Hidden Fortress. Both of these films are available on dvd from Criterion.
     
  3. TerryRL

    TerryRL Producer

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    The Criterion DVDs of "Hidden Fortress" and "The Seven Samurai" are awesome. You MUST check those out.
     
  4. Kevin Leonard

    Kevin Leonard Supporting Actor

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    Well, since you're a big Star Wars fan, you might want to start off with The Hidden Fortress, which George Lucas states as a primary influence on his trilogy. While watching the movie, you should be able to see some similarities between it and A New Hope. The DVD (which is released by Criterion) also contains an interview with Lucas.
    Criterion, I believe, has the rights to most of Kurosawa's films; the ones already out include:
    Yojimbo
    Sanjuro (sequel to the above title)
    The Seven Samurai
    These three are examples of what Kurosawa did best: the samurai trilogy. All three movies have a great mixture of drama, comedy and kickass action, though Sanjuro is more comedic than the others. You can't go wrong with any of them, though.
    Kurosawa also branched out into drama: High and Low (also put out by Criterion) and Dersu Uzala are ones that are on DVD; these are basically examinations of friendship and loyalty, and are set in more contemporary times. Some other films you might like to look at if you are interested in the more dramatic side of Kurosawa: Red Beard, Ikiru and Rashomon (the final will hit DVD later this year).
    But none of the above films compare to the greatness that is Throne of Blood. It's an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" that is done with samurais; IMHO, it's the best film Kurosawa ever did, and it's one of my top ten films of all-time. Try to seek it out on VHS if you can; the battle scenes alone are worth the effort.
     
  5. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Terrell, you are a SW fan and should therefore start with Criterion's release of A Hidden Fortress.
    Those lovable adventure film transition wipes...in there.
    The C3PO/R2D2 characters...in there.
    The speeder chase on Endor (RotJ)...in there.
    You will see characters, scenes and styles from the SW films although AHF is not directly used to create ANH only. It is a true influence simply to Lucas's style and creativity.
    Following that Ran is an epic film (King Lear) but a poor DVD. Still, you should at least rent it. The attack on the castle midway through is one of the greatest large battle scenes ever done. Great color and style as well. This is an '85 film so in that way it might be more accessible as well.
    Seven Samurai is one of the 10 greatest action films ever, really. Buy the Criterion DVD if possible, it's a very good copy of the film. (this was remade as Mag 7)
    Yojimbo was redone as Fistful of Dollars and is another great action/adventure film. Actually it is really a western, Kurosawa was greatly influenced by John Ford.
    He has many other wonderful films, but I would say that a Star Wars fan absolutely needs to see those films right away.
     
  6. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    I would echo the above films mentioned but most especially:

    The Seven Samurai

    Ran

    High and Low

    Yojimbo

    Sanjuro

    ~Edwin
     
  7. Terrell

    Terrell Producer

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    Aw man, you guys have just cost me some money. But thanks for your thoughts and the list of Kurosawa films. Now I guess I'll have to go out and buy The Hidden Fortress. I'll start there and move down the line, eventually watching all of them. I assume THF DVD from Criterion is still in print?
     
  8. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    yep. Pretty bare but it's a nice transfer and a fun film.
     
  9. Terrell

    Terrell Producer

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    Thanks Seth!
     
  10. Greg_S_H

    Greg_S_H Executive Producer

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    Besides Kurosawa--and I think you'll really enjoy Hidden Fortress--if you're looking for the roots of Star Wars, you might also want to check into serials. Both the Flash Gordon serials and Buck Rogers have the wipes Lucas loves to make use of, and they have a lot of other similar elements as well: Buck Rogers and the third Flash Gordon serial both have the original version of the Trade Federation viewscreen; the major city in Buck Rogers looks a lot like Coruscant (the flying car effects are really well done for the late '30s--the ship battles are less convincing); there is a scene in Buck Rogers where they have to make a blockade run, which is quite similar to the one in TPM; and, most noticeably, Buck and one of the Flash Gordon serials have the scrolling text introductions. They even have certain words capitalized, just like in Star Wars!
    The main thing they all have in common, however, is their sense of adventure and fun. In fact, after watching enough serials, I think you'll appreciate TPM even more. I think you'll get the sense, as I do, that it is nothing more than a big budget serial with spectacular effects. I can only dream of Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon being captured by Ming and being forced to enter the pod race--just the way it looks in TPM. As soon as I get my time machine, that's the way Flash Gordon will be. And, since that will be in the '30s, special effects today will instantly become even more advanced! [​IMG]
     
  11. Bill McA

    Bill McA Producer

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  12. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    You'll also want to hunt down a copy of Kurosawa's Stray Dog. Classic film noir with Toshiro Mifune playing a cop who must track down the thief who stole his gun. Great stuff!
     
  13. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    While "The Hidden Fortress" may have had the most direct influence on Star Wars, it's not considered one of Kurosawa's greatest films - and it is fairly slight, all in all. I like it, but I like it the least of all his films yet available on DVD, with the exception of "Sanjuro".
    "Seven Samurai" is his samurai masterpiece, the perfect blend of all-out action and depiction of the philosophy and code of honor of the samurai warrior. Here's a great review: http://www.culturevulture.net/Movies/SevenSamurai.htm
     
  14. Terrell

    Terrell Producer

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    Thanks Al.
     
  15. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Can't disagree with any of Al's thoughts on this one. "Ikiru" is the one I'm most looking forward to seeing again, an absolute all-time classic.
     
  16. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    My favorites are

    Seven Samurai

    Ran

    Also Roshomon is coming out from Criterion in Feb or March I dont remember at the moment.
     
  17. Phil Florian

    Phil Florian Screenwriter

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    Aiiee! No one has mentioned my personal fave of Akira's...Kagemushu . This was the third movie of Kurosawa that I had seen and the lead performance is wonderful. The simple view of the story is this: During Medieval Japan, a powerful lord keeps a bunch of factions at peace (barely). When he is injured in a battle, this lord's advisors fear that the other factions will become stirred up and start trouble if they see the man down. So they find a lowly commoner (a thief) who looks the part to fill in for this lord until he is healed. Was this Mifune? I think it was. The lead actor plays both roles, of course, but the transformation from peasant to lord is powerful.
    Too bad Lucas' skills didn't mature as well as Kurosawa's did.
    Phil
     
  18. Steve_Ch

    Steve_Ch Supporting Actor

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    Just get them all [​IMG] .
    Much has been said about Hidden Fortress' influence on Star Wars, the one thing that has not been mention yet was the camera work, you will recognise the "shoot" right at the very first sequence of Hidden Fortress and since Lucas' liberal use of the same technique in Star Wars, that type of camera work has probably been in every single "Star Ship" type of movies (among others) ever since.
    >> Yojimbo made into Fistful of Dollars
    Also made into Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis, Rashomon was made into The Outrage (Paul Newman) and of course, Seven Samurai into Magnificent Seven.
    Kurosawa was highly influenced by John Ford as well as other "western" culture. His great "High and Low" was based on a western crime novel(Ed McBain’s King’s Ransom) and many of his films were roundly criticised domestically for being too western (in the earlier days, and that includes the great Seven Sumarai).
     
  19. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Screenwriter

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    I'll second Kagemusha.

    I've always intended to ask the experts in this forum, though, about which Kurosawa movies I should see if I'm a, umm, intermediate, Kurosawa fan. I've seen Rashomon, Seven Samuri, Ikiru, Ran, Throne of Blood, High & Low, Dersu Uzala, Sanjuro, Yojimbo, Kagemusha, and The Hidden Fortress; what else should I follow through with? Obviously I can just check the IMDB for his films, but I also wish to know which are most worth my time.
     
  20. Steve_Ch

    Steve_Ch Supporting Actor

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    Some really like Red Beard (I am not one of them [​IMG] NOT saying it's a bad movie, just personal preference), I do beleive that marked the end of the Kurosawa-Mifune era, you should probably check it out and decide for yourself.
     

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