Akira Kurosawa

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Akira Kurosawa (Kyūjitai: 黒澤 明, Shinjitai: 黒沢 明 Kurosawa Akira, 23 March 1910 – 6 September 1998) was a prominent Japanese film director, film producer, and screenwriter. His first credited film...

Akira Kurosawa had a distinctive cinematic technique, which he had developed by the 1950s, and which gave his films a unique look. He liked using telephoto lenses for the way they flattened the frame and also because he believed that placing cameras farther away from his actors produced better performances. He also liked using multiple cameras, which allowed him to shoot an action scene from different angles. Another Kurosawa trademark was the use of weather elements to heighten mood: for example the heavy rain in the opening scene of Rashomon, and the final battle in Seven Samurai, the intense heat in Stray Dog, the cold wind in Yojimbo, the snow in Ikiru, and the fog in Throne of Blood. Kurosawa also liked using frame wipes, sometimes cleverly hidden by motion within the frame, as a transition device.
He was known as "Tenno", literally "Emperor", for his dictatorial directing style. He was a perfectionist who spent enormous amounts of time and effort to achieve the desired visual effects. In Rashomon, he dyed the rain water black with calligraphy ink in order to achieve the effect of heavy rain, and ended up using up the entire local water supply of the location area in creating the rainstorm. In the final scene of Throne of Blood, in which Mifune is shot by arrows, Kurosawa used real arrows shot by expert archers from a short range, landing within centimetres of Mifune's body. In Ran, an entire castle set was constructed on the slopes of Mt. Fuji only to be burned to the ground in a climactic scene.
Other stories include demanding 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.
His perfectionism also showed in his approach to costumes: he felt that giving an actor a brand new costume made the character look less than authentic. To resolve this, he often gave his cast their costumes weeks before shooting was to begin and required them to wear them on a daily basis and "bond with them." In some cases, such as with Seven Samurai, where most of the cast portrayed poor farmers, the actors were told to make sure the costumes were worn down and tattered by the time shooting started.
Kurosawa did not believe that "finished" music went well with film. When choosing a musical piece to accompany his scenes, he usually had it stripped down to one element (e.g., trumpets only). Only towards the end of his films are more finished pieces heard.
Influences
A notable feature of Kurosawa's films is the breadth of his artistic influences. Some of his plots are adaptations of William Shakespeare's works: Ran is based on King Lear and Throne of Blood is based on Macbeth, while The Bad Sleep Well parallels Hamlet, but is not affirmed to be based on it. Kurosawa also directed film adaptations of Russian literary works, including The Idiot by Dostoevsky and The Lower Depths, a play by Maxim Gorky. Ikiru was based on Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich. Dersu Uzala was based on the 1923 memoir of the same title by Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev. Story lines in Red Beard can be found in The Insulted and Humiliated by Dostoevsky.
High and Low was based on King's Ransom by American crime writer Ed McBain, Yojimbo may have been based on Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest and also borrows from American Westerns, and Stray Dog was inspired by the detective novels of Georges Simenon. The American film director John Ford also had a large influence on his work.
Despite criticism by some Japanese critics that Kurosawa was "too Western", he was deeply influenced by Japanese culture as well, including the Kabuki and Noh theaters and the Jidaigeki (period drama) genre of Japanese cinema.
When Kurosawa got to meet John Ford, a director commonly said to be the most influential to Kurosawa, Ford simply said, "You really like rain." Kurosawa responded, "You've really been paying attention to my films."

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