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Director Spotlight: Akira Kurosawa

PopMatters is proud to present this Director’s Spotlight on one of the most complicated, enduring and influential voices in world cinema. Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you short essays on each film in Kurosawa’s prolific body of work, as well as in-depth essays on the style and substance of his legacy as a whole.

Edited by Robert Moore and Ian Chant and Produced by Sarah Zupko

There are few ways to overstate the importance of Akira Kurosawa to world cinema today. Kurosawa was not just a great director—there are lots of those—but one who helped to shape how movies are made around the world. Unapologetically blending Western filmmaking techniques with Japanese tradition, Kurosawa not only introduced the world to Japanese cinema, but made staggering contributions to the language of cinema while doing so. Ever an innovator, Kurosawa’s influence is still being felt today, and 25 years after the release of one of his crowning masterworks, Ran, PopMatters is proud to present this Director’s Spotlight on one of the most complicated, enduring and influential voices in world cinema. Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you short essays on each film in this Kurosawa’s prolific body of work, as well as in-depth essays on the style and substance of his legacy as a whole. We hope you’ll enjoy.


Ian Chant

Thursday, October 21 2010

The Individual As Institution: Power, Loss and Madness in Kurosawa’s Ran and Shakespeare’s King Lear

By identifying Lear with the ancient Japanese warlord Hidetora, whose violations emerge from a breach of publicly identified self-hood, Akira Kurosawa plays with the quintessentially Shakespearean focus on individual personality.


Comparing Akira Kurosawa’s Early and Late Films

There are some striking differences not only between the earlier films of Kurosawa and the later films, but in the very different ways that people have responded to these two different groups of films


Kurosawa 101: Day Ten, 1991 - 1993

Today we bring to an end our examination of each of the films of Kurosawa directed in his amazing career. After the ambitious epic Ran, Kurosawa embarked a three smaller but more personal films.


Wednesday, October 20 2010

Monster Dandelions and Weeping Demons

In the early 1990s, The Hollywood Reporter picked up on an emerging ‘trend’ of what it called cinema vert -- films about ‘green issues’. Kurosawa’s Dreams, though not financed by the American studio system, fits well in this cohort, albeit as the most formally distinct example of this miniature film movement.


Kurosawa 101: Day Nine, 1975 - 1985

The three films featured today represented the director's ascendance to greater international acclaim, even while he struggled to find financing in Japan, where the movie industry was shriveling. All three of these films were made either in whole or in part by Soviet, American, or French financing.


Tuesday, October 19 2010

Madness and Goodness in ‘Dodeskaden’

Rather than portray Dodeskaden as many have done, as the imperfect film whose failure pushed Kurosawa over the edge to a suicide attempt, one could see it instead as a cri de coeur by Kurosawa for the sort of independent production that he favored, in which the director had his freedom, both to film the way he wanted and also the freedom of the final cut.


Kurosawa 101: Day Eight, 1963 - 1970

These three films by Kurosawa represent the end of one phase of his career and the beginning of another. High and Low is a police procedural that is regarded as one of his greatest films, while Red Beard represented the end of his so-called "Creative Period".


Monday, October 18 2010

Defining the Most Beautiful: Women in the Films of Kurosawa, 1940-1970

Kurosawa walked a fine line in his treatment and portrayal of women in his films, and he didn’t always walk it without stumbling.


Kurosawa 101: Day Seven, 1960 - 1962

Today's Kurosawa 101 reviews cover three of his most popular and accessible films Yojimbo and Sanjuro, as well as arguably his most earnest, The Bad Sleep Well.


Sunday, October 17 2010

The Brush and the Lens: Kurosawa As Painter and Filmmaker

As a painter and filmmaker, Kurosawa stuck to his own style, informed heavily by traditional Japanese painting as well as European impressionists and expressionists, another arena of art where he answered to both Eastern and Western influences.


Kurosawa 101: Day Six, 1955 - 1958

After creating two masterpieces in Ikiru and Seven Samurai, Kurosawa put his genius on display on three more brilliant films that were unlike anything he had previously done.


Thursday, October 14 2010

Kurosawa 101: Day Five, ‘Seven Samurai’ (1954)

Today's Kurosawa 101 focuses exclusively on what is generally regarded as not only the greatest Japanese film ever made, but perhaps the greatest in world cinema.


Wednesday, October 13 2010

Wide-Screen, Big Ideas: The Wide-Screen Cinema of Akira Kurosawa

After eschewing innovations like color and wide-screen filmmaking, when Akira Kurosawa made the conversion to a wider screen, he did so by making six consecutive films in wide screen, with a degree of success that was as resounding as it was influential.


Kurosawa 101: Day Four, 1950 - 1952

Today's Kurosawa 101 explores two of the greatest films in Kurosawa's catalog, Rashomon -- the film that made Kurosawa and Japanese cinema known throughout the world -- and Ikiru -- perhaps the greatest film ever made about impending death.


Tuesday, October 12 2010

West By East By West: The Influence of Kurosawa on the West and Vice Versa

Through his influences and achievements, Kurosawa became one of the first true international filmmakers, inspiring several generations of filmmakers who would explore notions of genre and identity in film.


Kurosawa 101: Day Three (1949 - 1950)

Today's Kurosawa 101 films include the director's only effort at bringing a contemporary Japanese stage play to the screen (the rarely seen The Quiet Duel), a police procedural that was the finest Kurosawa film to date (Stray Dog), and a scree against tabloid journalism that resulted in one of the weakest films he would ever direct (Scandal).


Monday, October 11 2010

Textbook on Film: The Political As Personal in the Films of Kurosawa

Kurosawa's films often act as deliberate examinations of the period in which they took place, exploring not only the difficult realities that existed, but also the personal ordeals of the individuals that had to confront within them.


Kurosawa 101: Day Two, 1946 - 1948

Day Two of Kurosawa 101 examines three of the director's films that attempt to come to terms with the nature of life in Japan immediately following the end of WWII and the American Occupation.


Sunday, October 10 2010

A Giant Shadow: The Continuing Influence of Akira Kurosawa on World Cinema

Today it is impossible to imagine a world without the films of Akira Kurosawa. He is easily regarded as one of the very greatest directors in the history of film, having made a host of first tier masterpieces.


Kurosawa 101: Day One, 1943-1945

Over the next two weeks we will provide a brief introduction to every one of the films that Akira Kurosawa directed, from the obscure to the most celebrated, from Scandal and The Most Beautiful to Seven Samurai and Ran.


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