Akira Kurosawa

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Akira Kurosawa died on September 6, 1998 at the age of 88, he was a Japanese filmmaker. Regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema, Kurosawa directed 30 films in a career spanning 57 years.

Born on March 23, 1910 in Ōimachi in the Ōmori district of Tokyo. His father Isamu, a member of a former samurai family from Akita Prefecture, worked as the director of the Army’s Physical Education Institute’s lower secondary school, while his mother Shima came from a merchant’s family living in Osaka.

Akira was the eighth and youngest child of the moderately wealthy family, with two of his siblings already grown up at the time of his birth and one deceased, leaving Kurosawa to grow up with three sisters and a brother.

Another major childhood influence was Heigo Kurosawa, Akira’s older brother by four years. In the aftermath of the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923, which devastated Tokyo, Heigo took the 13-year-old Akira to view the devastation.

When the younger brother wanted to look away from the human corpses and animal carcasses scattered everywhere, Heigo forbade him to do so, instead encouraging Akira to face his fears by confronting them directly. Some commentators have suggested that this incident would influence Kurosawa’s later artistic career, as the director was seldom hesitant to confront unpleasant truths in his work.

During his five years as an assistant director, Kurosawa worked under numerous directors, but by far the most important figure in his development was Kajiro Yamamoto. Of his 24 films as A.D., he worked on 17 under Yamamoto, many of them comedies featuring the popular actor Kenichi Enomoto, known as “Enoken”.

Yamamoto nurtured Kurosawa’s talent, promoting him directly from third assistant director to chief assistant director after a year. Kurosawa’s responsibilities increased, and he worked at tasks ranging from stage construction and film development to location scouting, script polishing, rehearsals, lighting, dubbing, editing and second-unit directing.

Because he had been labeled unfit for military service after failing an earlier physical, when Japan entered World War II Kurosawa was able to stay in Tokyo and continue to work.

Despite the inherent economic hardships of the conflict, it was during this time that Kurosawa was promoted to director and made his first film, Sanshiro Sugata. A martial arts picture set in 19th-century Japan, it was released in 1943 and showcased Kurosawa’s talents as both a writer and director.

Kurosawa followed with the World War II–themed Ichiban utsukushiku in 1944, an achievement made even sweeter when he married its star, Yōko Yaguchi, the next year.

In 1952, he released the internationally acclaimed Ikiru and in 1954 the epic Seven Samurai, a homage to Westerns that would later come full circle when it was remade as The Magnificent Seven (1960). Once more demonstrating his range and flair for adaptation, in 1957 Kurosawa released Throne of Blood.

A reimagining of Macbeth, it is widely considered to be one of the finest interpretations of Shakespeare’s works. Following on its heels was 1958’s Hidden Fortress, the story of princess, her general and their two bumbling peasant companions on a quest to reach home.

 

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