WHAT are his films about?

WHO is he?

Massively influential Japanese screenwriter, film editor and director who made 30 feature films between 1943 and 1993. Best known for his Samurai films starring long-term collaborator Toshiro Mifune, Kurosawa made movies that sharply departed stylistically and philosophically from the established national cinema. Besides a Golden Lion and three Academy awards, he won the Golden Palm at Cannes Film Festival in 1980.

WHY is he of interest?

Without doubt, Kurosawa is one director who changed the way action films were made. His influence on later-day filmmakers has been pervasive and wide-ranging. The editing and cinematographic techniques that he introduced as a storyteller have now become textbook examples in film schools. Even today, his works serve as the starting point for exploring world cinema for many cinephiles around the globe.

WHERE to discover him?

Kurosawa’s most flamboyant work, the swashbuckling Yojimbo (1961), which, more than any other film, spawned the Spaghetti Western, revolves around a master-less samurai who walks into a war-torn town to set things straight. Besides being a stellar example of how to use the widescreen and direct crowds, Yojimbo is an allegory of filmmaking, where the omnipresent director-samurai writes his scenes and directs his crew while seeking the correct view.

Themes

In his youth, Kurosawa was involved with leftist political groups, only to be disillusioned by the Second World War. This move away from nationalist and idealist politics shaped Kurosawa’s deep belief in the individual as an agency for social change. As a mark of a true author, it is interesting that his early films dealt with problems of the youth, his middle period films with those of midlife and his final films dealt exclusively with old age.

Style

Some of Kurosawa’s most exciting directorial trademarks flourished on the editing front. His use of wipes (slanted, straight) is widely noted and it often has the effect of showcasing set pieces by setting it apart from the ones before and after. His staccato shot division, especially for action scenes where cause and effect of an action are regularly isolated and a single continuous motion is spread across multiple shots, is one of the major stylistic innovations in genre cinema. The use of rain, the intense physicality of the actors and compositions sans horizons are some other enduring elements of Kurosawa’s cinema.