Sep 23, 2008

28th Sept 2008 ; Kurosawa Film Festival


Akira Kurosawa Film Festival

Sunday ; 28th Sept 2008 ; 9.45 am to 6.30 pm
Coimbatore Cosmopolitan Club

Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa was the youngest of seven children, born in Tokyo on 23 March 1910. A talented painter, he enrolled in an art school that emphasized Western styles. Around this time he also joined an artists' group with a great enthusiasm for nineteenth-century Russian literature, with Dostoevsky a particular favourite. Another influence was Heigo, one of his brothers, who loved film and worked as a benshi, a film narrator/commentator for foreign silent films. His suicide deeply affected the director's sensibilities.In 1930 he responded to a newspaper advertisement for assistant directors at a film studio and began assisting Kajiro Yamamoto, who liked the fact he knew 'a lot about things other than movies'. Within five years he was writing scripts and directing whole sequences for Yamamoto films. In 1943 he made his debut as a director with Judo Saga (Sanshiro Sugata), with a magnificent martial-arts sequence.

His early films were produced during the Second World War, so had to comply to themes prescribed by official state propaganda policy. It was Drunken Angel which was Kurosawa's first personally expressive work, made in 1948 and featuring Toshiro Mifune who became Kurosawa's favourite leading man.

For those who discover Kurosawa, they will find a master technician and stylist, with a deep humanism and compassion for his characters and an awe of the enormity of nature. He awakened the West to Japanese cinema with Rashomon, which won the top prize in the Venice Film Festival of 1951, and also a special Oscar for best foreign film. A golden period followed, with the West enthralled by his work. Seven Samurai, Yojimbo etc.

Following Red Beard (Akahige) in 1965 he entered a frustrating period of aborted projects and forced inactivity and when in 1970 his first film in five years (Dodeska-den) failed at the box office, he attempted suicide. Directing a Soviet-Japanese production, Dersu Uzala helped him to recover and took four years to make. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1975 and a gold medal at the Moscow Film Festival.

A true auteur, he supervised the editing of nearly all his films and wrote or collaborated on the scripts of most. His memoirs were published in 1982, titled Something like an Autobiography. In 1989 he won an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement. Kurosawa died in 1998.

Director : Akira Kurosawa
Year : 1954
Run Time : 203 minutes
Japanese with English subtitles

Much imitated, still unsurpassed. By critical consensus one of the best movies ever made, THE SEVEN SAMURAI covers so much emotional, historical, and cinematic ground that that it demands to be viewed over and over again.

The film is set in the 1600s during the Sengoku era, when the once-powerful samurai were coming to the end of their rule. A small, unprotected village, which is regularly pillaged by murderous thieves, comes under the protection of a band of these samurai. Kambei (Takashi Shimura) is a veteran warrior who has fallen on hard times and who answers the villagers' appeal for help by gathering six comrades to help defend the town.
Bandits are waiting to attack an isolated village as soon as the rice is ripe. Some of the men go to look for help and run into a sage old Samurai warrior who consents to help them. Then follows a series of deft bits as the seven men are gathered and head for the village to prepare defenses, train the men, and get ready for the onslaught. They finally vanquish the bandits but not without losses.

Director Akira Kurosawa has given this a virile mounting. It is primarily a man's film, with the brief romantic interludes also done with taste. Each character is firmly molded. Toshiro Mifune as the bold, hairbrained but courageous warrior weaves a colossal portrait. He dominates the picture although he has an extremely strong supporting cast.

Lensing is excellent, as is editing in bundling together the immense footage and making its battle scenes monumental and exciting. Music is also helpful in mood, vacillating between western and eastern themes for telling effect.

The Hidden Fortress
Director : Akira Kurosawa
Year : 1958
Runtime: 130 minutes
Japanese with English sub titles

The focus of the story is on a pair of escaped thieves who, despite their initial bickerings, soon become friends of an almost co-dependent nature. When the fuedal state they are in is conquered, the princess Yuki (played by the lovely but strident Misa Uehara) escapes - only to have a reward of ten gold pieces placed on her head. Of course, what the conquerors want more than her head is the 200 pieces of gold she fled the Castle with.

Meanwhile, inept thieves Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) and Matakishi (Kamatari Fujiwara) are captured, but manage to escape in a prisoner riot and go hide in the mountains. While there, they come across one surly man who claims to be the samurai General Rokurota Makabe (Toshiro Mifune). Playing on their greed, he enlists their aid to cart out the hidden stash of gold he has nearby, leading them to a secret fortress in a mountain valley.

While in the small fortress, the thieves try to double-cross Rokurota every chance they get, and also encounter the presence of a young girl who they do not realize is the princess. As Rokurota and the Princess engage in trick after counter-trick against each other and the thieves, their fates becomes entwined and the lowly pair of thieves are committed to escorting the General, the Princess, and the gold out of enemy lines and to a friendly neighboring state.

The Hidden Fortress represents a nearly perfect blend of absurd comedy and rousing adventure.

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