Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa

A theoretical interpretation of his work can be found in "Akira Kurosawa and Intertextual Cinema" by James Goodwin, published by Johns Hopkins in 1994.

According to his family, he rarely thought about anything other than films. Even when at home, he would sit around silently, apparently composing shots in his head.

Although he received an Honorary Award in 1990 "For cinematic accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained worldwide audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world," he was only nominated once for a Best Director Oscar for Ran (1985). Also, his only film to have ever received the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar was for Dersu Uzala (1975), which was also his only film not done in Japanese (it was in Russian).

Although his "samurai" films are considered the archetypal samurai films over the rest of the world, they were actually considered atypical in Japan. Most Japanese samurai films had been set in the 18th & 19th centuries, when a peaceful Japan was at the peak of its nationalism, with the largest number of bushido code-adhering samurai. Kurosawa's films typically feature individualistic "ronin" (masterless samurai) rather than true "samurai" and a majority are set in the far more chaotic feudal periods (16th-17th centuries) when the Japanese were engaged in civil war.

Although the Japanese press tried to paint him as a tyrant, almost all of his casts and crews agreed he was a much more cool and detached presence on sets. Many also described him as "intense".

At over 6' feet tall, he was extremely large by Japanese standards, having stood a head taller than any of his colleagues.

Awarded the French Legion of Honor, 1984.

Awarded the Kyoto Prize, 1994.

Because he could not get film financing for a period of time in his career, he directed and even appeared in Japanese television commercials.

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume One, 1890- 1945". Pages 583-605. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1987.

Father of Hisao Kurosawa.

Father of Kazuko Kurosawa.

He believed his years as an assistant director were invaluable. In Japanese cinema at that time, assistant directors dabbled in virtually every aspect of film production and Kurosawa, among other things, learned all about editing, set-decorating, costume-design and working with actors. Almost all of the assistant directors in Kurosawa's day were aspiring to become full-fledged directors. He felt that it was a shame that, in more modern Japanese cinema and in America, the assistant director doesn't accrue as much experience and usually permanently stays as an assistant director throughout his career and that there would be a great number of excellent directors had they had his training.

He had a son Hisao (b. 20-Dec-1945), and a daughter, award-winning film costume designer Kazuko (b. 29-Apr-1954).

He named the film that made him want to work in cinema as Abel Gance's film La roue (1923), particularly certain kinetic shots of trains.

He was a fan of the films of Satyajit Ray.

He was a fan of the work of Sergei M. Eisenstein, who, like Kurosawa, edited his own films.

He was born the youngest of four children for Isamu and Shima Kurosawa. As a child, he revered his elder brother Heigo. While young Akira was mainly into painting, Heigo was a film-lover and worked as a "benshi", a narrator/ commentator for foreign silent films. Akira's love for film was handed down from his brother. Unfortunately, Heigo suffered from depression and committed suicide. Short thereafter, both Akira's eldest brother and only sister died from illnesses, leaving Akira the only remaining child. His siblings' deaths (particularly that of Heigo) was a traumatic experience for Akira and is thought to have considerably darkened his world view.

He was infamous for his perfectionism. Among the related tales are his insisting a stream be made to run in the opposite direction in order to get a better visual effect, and having the roof of a house removed, later to be replaced, because he felt the roof's presence to be unattractive in a short sequence filmed from a train. He also required that all the actors in his period films had to wear their costumes for several weeks, daily, before filming so that they would look lived in.

He was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute in recognition of his outstanding contribution to film culture.