- Published on Tuesday, January 29 2013
- Written by Felix Kay
Samurai movies -- we all love them. From Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill to even Westerns like The Magnificent Seven, one man inspired them all, and his name was Akira Kurosawa.
Recently, the Writers Guild of America West named a quartet of iconic Japanese filmmakers – Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Ryûzô Kikushima, and Hideo Oguni – as honorees of its 2013 Jean Renoir Award for Screenwriting Achievement. The award is given to an international writer (or writers) who has advanced the literature of motion pictures and made outstanding contributions to the profession of screenwriting.
Said WGAW Vice President Howard A. Rodman: “These four men, working in loose collaboration, are responsible for writing many, many masterpieces – films that reflect the Japanese culture, and have given all of us a taste of the sublime.”
All of the men honored are most definitely worthy and I love all of their films, but one man, Kurosawa (1910-1998), is by far one of my favorite directors. He directed more than 30 films and wrote or contributed to more than 70. Many of his films introduced Japanese cinema to a global audience and paved the path for many new age films and animes that we all know and love today.
Kurorsawa's first major international hit, Rashomon, earned him an honorary Academy Award for most outstanding foreign language film, followed by Ikiru, which won a Special Prize of the Senate at the Berlin International Film Festival. But it wasn’t untill his epic adventure Seven Samurai that Kurosawa truly enjoyed mainstream success. The classic film is not only is in the process of getting an upcoming Hollywood reboot, but it won the Venice Film Festival’s Silver Lion, received two Oscar nominations, and was later remade as the classic Western The Magnificent Seven and the anime hit “Samurai 7”.
He then went on to create many more classic tales-later-turned-into-Hollywood-remakes, like the classic comedy adventure Yojimbo, which was re-imagined into Sergio Leone’s 1964 spaghetti Western A Fistful of Dollars and then later as 1996 actioner Last Man Standing starring Bruce Willis.
For all you young folks who might not be picking up on what I’m laying down, you’re in for a treat. Kurosawa has not only made pure epic Samurai classics but has also influenced many of your favorite modern-day directors.
If you think you're a Star Wars fan and you've never heard of Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, you need to think again. George Lucas drew upon Kurosawa’s style, characters, visuals, and content when making his film. In fact, many directors have.
“Kurosawa is the master of all of us,” said director Martin Scorsese.
“I love Kurosawa’s movies, and I got so much inspiration from him. He is one of my idols and one of the great masters.” -- Director John Woo.
“One thing that distinguishes Akira Kurosawa is that he didn’t make a masterpiece or two masterpieces; he made, you know, eight masterpieces.” -- Francis Ford Coppola.
The list of films and directors Kurosawa influenced is virtually endless. He is an inspiration to many in the film industry not only for his filmmaking abilities but for who he was as a person. In his memoir, Something Like an Autobiography, Kurosawa wrote:
“With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece; with the same script, a mediocre director can make a passable film. But with a bad script, even a good director can’t possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. That is what makes a real movie. The script must be something that has the power to do this... If your goal is to become a film director, you must master screenwriting... At some point in the writing of every script, I feel like giving the whole thing up. From my many experiences of writing screenplays, however, I have learned something: If I hold fast in the face of this blankness and despair, adopting the tactic of Bodhidharma, who glared at the wall that stood in his way until his legs became useless, a path will open up.”
Without directors like Akira Kurosawa, many of our favorite Hollywood films today simply wouldn’t have been made.
Kurosawa along with Oguni, Kikushima, and Hashimoto will be honored at the 2013 Writers Guild Awards West Coast ceremony on February 17 in Los Angeles. Hashimoto, who is now 94 years old, is the only one of the four men still alive, but unfortunately will not be able to make it to the ceremonies.
- Felix Kay, YH Staff
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