To commemorate what would have been the 100th birthday of one of cinema’s greats, Akira Kurosawa was awarded his very own Google Doodle – joining the likes of Mahatma Ghandi, HG Wells and Vivaldi.
Known for not only directing films – but also producing and screen writing too -Kurosawa made 31 films in his 50 year career, including The Seven Samurai which he co-wrote and directed. Telling the story of seven samurai who rescue a village held hostage by a gang of bandits (to reduce the plot, somewhat), the final battle scene is widely regarded as cinematic art in it’s highest form, and the film provided the direct inspiration for the Steve McQueen epic-western, The Magnificant Seven.
But of course, any film fan worth their weight in popcorn / yoghurt covered cranberries (depending on your taste in cinema) can reel off their top Kurosawa films…and For Your Consideration is no different. Here – in no particular order – are our favourites:
Throne Of Blood 1957
Transferring Macbeth to medieval Japan - Throne of Blood sees a ruthlessly ambitious samurai, encouraged by his wife, embark on an increasingly nefarious plot to realise a prophecy that one day, he will become an Emperor. A film laced with violence, beauty and irony, it was described by American literary critic Harold Bloom as ‘the must successful film version of Macbeth’.
Based on the tragedy King Lear, an elderly lord abdicates to his three sons – only for two of them to turn against him. A relentless twist of battles, corruption and a lust for power ensues, all climaxing in a frustrating come-uppance for our greedy, consumed characters. With a budget of $12 million, this was the most expensive Japanese film ever made in its time, and was notably ignored by the likes of Cannes and the Oscars.
A masterless samurai arrives in a small town dominated by opposing war lords - and through careful negotiation manages to play the two groups off against one another, leading the town to freedom. Roughly translated the film means ‘bodyguard’, and was later re-made as the Clint Eastwood vehicle, A Fist Full of Dollars.
Umi wa miteita 2002
An ill fated romance between a prostitute and samurai, Umi wa miteita boils with misunderstandings, unrequited love and a relatively satisfying ending. Exploring the codes of patriarchal honour which governs Japanese society, as well as attempting a softer side, Umi wa miteita is a bittersweet film about the power of the heart.
A classic love triangle with a trafic ending, Hakuchi is based on the novel The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The film was originally deemed too long by the studio (Shochiku) at 265 minutes, and was released at a truncated 166 minutes.
What are your top Akira Kurosawa films?
Photograph: Cine Text / Allstar