This week, we discuss the career of Japan’s most legendary director, Kurosawa Akira. From humble, middle class beginnings, our story will take us through some of his most notable films, and include detours into the lives of Mifune Toshiro, George Lucas, and even Francis Ford Coppola!

Sources

Kurosawa, Akira. Something like an Autobiography.

“Rashomon” and “The Seven Samurai” in Film Analysis: A Norton Reader.

The videos below are from the fine folks at Every Frame a Painting (now sadly defunct), and do a good job introducing the Kurosawa style.

Images

The poster for The Most Beautiful (1944).

Yaguchi Yoko as Watanabe Tsuru in Ichiban Utsukushiku (The Most Beautiful), 1944. Yoko would end up marrying Kurosawa; the two had two children, and were very happy together by all accounts.

Kurosawa and Mifune in Venice for the Venice Film Festival in 1950, where Rashomon won the Golden Lion for Best Film.

Kurosawa on set with Mifune Toshiro for The Seven Samurai (1954).

Mifune Toshiro as Rokurota Makabe in The Hidden Fortress (1958), and Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars (1977). The Kenobi character was based on Rokurota, and Lucas supposedly approached Mifune to play the part originally.

Produced in conjunction with Francis Ford Coppola on the recommendation of George Lucas, Kagemusha ended up reviving the legend of Kurosawa.

Ran (1985) is loosely based on the story of King Lear, a Shakespearean drama of kingship and unreliable children.

The poster for Madadayo (Not Yet), 1993 — Kurosawa’s last full film.