Akira Kurosawa was born in Japan in 1910. From an early age the young Kurosawa lived an eventful life – his father encouraging him to pursue painting, calligraphy, kendo and an interest in films. Kurosawa’s older brother, Heigo, was also a big influence on the young AK, nurturing a love of literature, and also encouraging him to see as many new movies as possible. But it wasn’t until Kurosawa turned 26 – after the death of his older brother – that he was to enter the movie world in earnest
after being recruited by Japanese movie studio PCL (later to become Toho) on the back of a newspaper advert. From that moment on his life was to change. Throughout his life Kurosawa was to make more than thirty films as a director, and contributed to many more – writing scripts and working as an Assistant Director. Film became his life and his work was to prove extremely influential throughout the 20th Century. From his directorial debut, Sanshiro Sugata, in 1943
Kurosawa continued to explore complex and delicate humanistic themes, gradually building a reputation as a film-maker unwilling to compromise either his vision or his message, and throughout the 1950s and 60s this was further cemented with the addition of many films that are now considered classics of world cinema. Despite studio interference, continued unfair criticism by some quarters of the Japanese media, the ‘failure’ of his first colour film Dodes’Kaden in 1970, and a subsequent
suicide attempt, Kurosawa continued to make films for an appreciative world-wide audience throughout the remainder of the 20th Century, though due to a reluctance on the part of the Japanese film industry to fund his pictures, less frequently than many would maybe have liked.
Kurosawa's film-making career went on well into his eighties, until his death in 1998. His last few films are considered more minor, more personal works than the epics made previously, though these – without doubt – have great appeal for those appreciative of his work. And Kurosawa’s work continues to live on, after his passing.
Countless celebrated film-makers continue to attribute Kurosawa as their greatest influence – Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, John Milius, Sidney Lumet, and a host of others – and it is not difficult to see why. Kurosawa’s signature style – his cinematic prowess, use of music, writing and characterization, attention to detail – were ground-breaking at the time and truly defined the way many modern film-makers presented their work. Here is a small selection of related quotes.
Francis Ford Coppola
“It seemed to me that Kurosawa was a man who made many masterpieces, as opposed to one or two.”
“I saw Seven Samurai and was just completely blown away by it. It really had a huge influence on my life in terms of seeing something that brilliant and that emotional, and at the same time that exotic.”
“Kurosawa never affected me directly in terms of my own movie-making because I never would have presumed that I was capable of that perception and that vision.”
Dec 2009 : Criterion to celebrate 100 years of Kurosawa