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Posted by on Feb 27, 2012 in Director’s Cut, Entertainment, Movies | 0 comments

Who’s the Hero? Akira Kurosawa on director’s cut

Being from a nation obsessed with Entertainment, obviously my first post on IndianDragon is on Cinemas. Even India’s identity to certain parts of the world still remains through Bollywood and its no lesser counterparts from South.
       Moving on , this post is not on commercial Indain Cinema or its fantasies it revolve around but rather an intuition into how we missed some of the great film makers or scintillating works from rest of the world. One such artist is Akira Kurosawa of Japan. Akira had the style of choosing plots for his movies from his own backyard or the Japan’s historic samurais. Most of his movies revolved around Samurai’s as the main character and he was brilliant enough to adopt some of Shakespeare’s tragedies like King Lear, Macbeth into his movies. Now one can see similar path followed by some Indian directors in choosing plots from Epic and Myth.

       For n00bs, Akira was not only a guy who made good films but made films in a better way that challenged American and European filmmakers artistically as well as technically. Here are some of those fundas on Akira & his ventures.
  • The movie, Rashomon  based on two Japanese novels was/is an epic in the history of world cinema with its narration and screenplay. For those who haven’t seen it, the tamil remake version was made way back in 1954 as “Andha Naal” starring Sivaji Ganesan. There have been a number of movies made after this movie and so remains a principle called Rashomon Effect.
Technically, this was the first movie that successfully was able to take direct shots at the sun, which the American cinematographers were struggling to do.
  • Akira edited most of his movies but rarely did he take credits for them. His adeptness with editing was best witnessed in the movie, Throne of blood (Most successful adoption of Shakespeare’s Macbeth). Take a look at the climax which was shot in 1957 were there was no CG especially at time 2:00.
This is how it was shot , widely known as  MATCH CUT PROCESS – First an arrow was shot in front of Toshiro’s neck and filmed slightly out of focus, next broken pieces of an arrow where stuck to his neck. Then an arrow was  fired almost in line/parallel to the previous arrow which was filmed. Finally his head going back was shot.
Here is it Visually.
         Akira made the best use of, Toshiro Mifune, the hero involved in this incident, is one of the best actors world has ever seen. In the scene above, where Toshiro is attacked with arrows, akira  had archers shoot real arrows,  from a distance of about ten feet, while  the actor had to carefully follow chalk marks on the ground to avoid being hit from arrows. Later Toshiro admitted that some of the arrows missed him by an inch, and he was not merely acting terrified in the film, but suffered nightmares afterward. (Hardly can imagine an Indian actor who would dare to do this).
  • Another instance is a scene in Yojimbo , the samurai shows incredible skill at knife-throwing by impaling a blowing leaf against a wooden floor. This was accomplished by running the shot backwards. In the frame before the knife hits the leaf, you can see a slit in the leaf the same size and at the exact point where the knife penetrates it a frame later.
  • For most of the movies he made, Akira created paintings of the scenarios to make his technicians understand the scene better. Akira has meticulously painted more than 2,000 storyboards in his lifetime.

A painted scene from movie Ran

He was an ardent fan of Indian Legend Satyajit Ray

Finally, my list of top 12 Akira Kurosawa movies.

1. Rashomon (1954)
2. The Seven Samurai (1954) –  remade as  The Magnificent Seven
3. Ran (1985) – adoption of Shakespeare’s King Lear
4. Ikiru (1952)
5. Yojimbo (1961) remade as the Clint Eastwood’s Fistful of Dollars
6. Throne of Blood (1957) – Adoption of Shakespeare’s Macbeth
7. Sanjuro or Tsubaki Sanjūrō (Sequel to Yojimbo)
8. High and Low (1963)
9. Kagemusha (1980)
10. Dersu Uzala (1975)
11. Hidden Fortress, The (1958) George Lucas admitted Star Wars was inspired from this.
12. Akahige or Red Beard (1965)

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Naveen is a software engineer by profession, loves to quiz, enjoys south Indian food. Likes Sachin, Man Utd, ARR, Ilayaraja. He writes on News@indiandragon on various arena ranging from tech, sports to movie making. You can get him @b_naveenkumar