Akira KurosawaKurosawa Centennial: 1910-2010

:Reviewer Ed Farolan

Dates and Venue 17 June - 10 Aug 2010 | Pacific Cinematheque, Vancouver

I had the opportunity to view two excellent films of Akira Kurosawa last July 26th, The Hidden Fortress (1958) and The Bad Sleep Well (1960). I was amazed at how the audience members were focused and super-attentive as they watched these films, despite their length (approximately 2.5 hours each).

The attention to detail and fluidity of the storylines were what impressed me the most. Noveau directors are scatter brains compared to the carefully scripted films of Kurosawa. In the comedic film The Hidden Fortress, he sets the film in 16th century Japan and does a farcical take of the samurai swordsmen. He casts two excellent comedians, two bumbling peasants, Tahei and Matakishi, and just by their looks alone, you could tell that the film was going to be a comedy all the way.

Even the serious actor Toshiro Mifune got laughs from the audience for his tongue-in-cheek role as a samurai general, who escorts a princess being hunted down by her enemies and after her treasure of gold. This film won Kurosawa the Best Director Award at the 1959 Berlin International Film Festival.

The second film, The Bad Sleep Well, is another gem, a contemporary film this time, and reflects the financial crisis we read in today's headlines caused by corporate corruption and greed. Toshio Mifue stars again in this film as the secretary of a ruthless Vice-President of a corporation, marrying his crippled boss's daughter, to avenge the murder of his father who worked for this corporation. The beginning of the film was impressive: a brilliantly shot wedding sequence, with detailed and varied shots, from long to medum shots, to close-ups.

This film reminds me of the Hitchcock and Scorcese films. I suspect that he was infuenced by the suspenseful, slow-moving shots in the mode of Hitchcock, and obviously, Scorcese may have also picked up this style in his films.

Film lovers around the world have been commemorating this year’s centennial of the birth of this great Japanese filmmaker who was born in 1910, in Tokyo. Kurosawa made 30 feature films in a long and distinguished directorial career that spanned a half century from 1943’s Sanshiro Sugata to 1993’s Madadayo. Kurosawa died in 1998 at the age of 88.

. © 2010 Ed Farolan