When a director gains the respect and praise from the likes of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola, they should be looked upon as a master of their craft. Akira Kurosawa deserves to be viewed in this light as he has been described by all of these great filmmakers as a primal influence. Not only has he enjoyed popularity among his peers, critics and film watchers from Japan and world wide have been entertained and touched by his work. Like many great artists, Kurosawa was not always appreciated during his career and was constantly trying to improve his work. When accepting a Career Achievement Award at the 1990 Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Kurosawa stressed his commitment to constant improvement, exclaiming: "I will continue to devote my entire being to understanding this wonderful art."
This commitment to improvement was fueled by his belief that artists can influence positive change in society through their work. Kurosawa's long journey as a director first began under the tutelage of Kajiro Yamamoto. Yamamoto was known to use his students' shots and ideas in order to help them grow as artists, despite any possible negative effects on the final project. In this spirit, Kurosawa's life as a director started in 1940 during the filming of Horse. Yamamoto gradually handed the reigns of the film to Kurosawa. When the film was a success, it allowed the more confident and well-known director to emerge. After the success of Horse, Kurosawa created thirty films from 1943 to 1993. Having to deal with restrictions during wartime, his creativity was stifled. Not able to create films in which he felt he could express himself kept him from making true classics until after the end of the war. During the 1950's and 1960's, an accomplished director emerged. During this period, Kurosawa's work has heralded around the world. He balanced entertaining and political cinema. Seven Samurai, 1954, The Hidden Fortress, 1958, and Yojimbo, 1960, inspired the western classics The Magnificent Seven, Fist Full of Dollars, and the science fiction masterpiece Star Wars. No other Japanese director has enjoyed so much success and influence worldwide.
As Kurosawa explored different sources for inspiration, Japanese critics and audiences began to dislike his use of "non-Japanese" sources and style of films, yet his popularity continued to grow worldwide. Eclectic interests continued to fuel Kurosawa's films. The flop of Dodeskaden in 1970 marked a low point in his career. He attempted suicide in 1971 after the box office bust. After this point, new directors, know as the New Wave, were exploring art cinema and went in a different direction with Japanese film. Despite this, Kurosawa continued to make his films.
Later work, all though not well-received in Japan, continued to inspire others. Akira Kurosawa died on September 6, 1998 at the age of eighty-eight. Many have described his passing as the end of an Era. It is interesting to picture a cinematic landscape with out Kurosawa's influence. Will the classics of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, and Francis Ford Coppola be as remarkable? Would they have been created at all without Kurosawa's influence? All speculation aside, we can be certain that Japanese cinema would not have been the same with out the man who redefined it. To sum up such a man's career, let alone his life, proves difficult, yet I hope this website provides some background on the genius who created the films that have inspired this project.
Copyright © 2005 Brendan Eagan