Akira Kurosawa 黒澤 明

A Japanese cinematic giant

Akira Kurosawa is a master of Japanese cinema who is celebrated globally. Here's a look back at his works and his life with an enthusiast, Peter Tasker in an interview with Arnaud Régis.

And the BBC specifies: "The 7 samurais are loved by critics around the world - loved everywhere except in Japan. None of the six Japanese critics retained a Kurosawa film in their choices". 16 of the 21 Chinese critics in the survey selected an Akira Kurosawa film among their 100 favorite titles.

It's an old story. The importance of Akira Kurosawa was revealed to the Japanese by his Golden Lion, obtained at the Venice Film Festival in 1951. He is the main influence on the greatest cinematographic success of all time: Star Wars (notably the film The Castle of the Spider ). Steven Spielberg and Georges Lucas gave him an honorary Oscar in 1990 in front of all of Hollywood in a trance. Poll after poll, The 7 Samurai is the unbeatable classic of spectators around the world, the eastern counterpart of Gone with the Wind.

But in Japan, Akira Kurosawa remains this discreet, somewhat cumbersome icon, whose titles everyone knows but no one looks at anymore. Shinobu Hashimoto, one of the greatest screenwriters who ever lived, author of some of the screenplays of his greatest hits ( The 7 Samurai, Rashomon, The Spider's Castle ...) died last July in 100 years. In total indifference in Japan.

Affiche du film 7 Samouraïs

7 Samurai movie poster

Toho Studios

Peter Tasker also returns to the personal life of Akira Kurosawa and in particular to his dramatic episodes. In particular on the suicide of his brother, a reciter of silent films ( benshi ), who will not survive speaking. In the mid-1970s, amid a creative breakdown after the failures of Barbarossa and Dodesukaden, Akira Kurosawa in turn attempted to commit suicide by cutting the veins in his hands and neck.

Peter Tasker paints the portrait of a perfectionist, sometimes at the limit of madness, very hard with his actors, but who kept a cohort of faithful technicians throughout his career. We know that he reconstructed entire castles for some of his epic dramas (Ran for example).

"For the shooting of one of his last films, he not only built a house but planted flowers and plants in the spring so that they would be in bloom in August at the time of the shooting. He placed in the closed drawers furniture that he filmed objects, invisible to the camera, but which, according to him, gave more authenticity" laughs Peter Tasker, visited in his office in Aoyama (Tokyo).

Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa

映画の友

Where to situate it politically? His work begins by recounting the destinies of ordinary beings put under pressure and forced to act and ends with historical frescoes of incredible ambition. "What is certain is that at Kurosawa, it never ends well. Even when a hero does good, there is always a politician to pull the chestnuts out of the fire", believes Peter Tasker.

How to explain the universal appeal of Akira Kurosawa's work? How to explain, on the contrary, that Japan has almost forgotten it? It's because Japan has changed faster than the rest of the world, explains Peter Tasker.

"There is something elementary in Kurosawa's cinema. His samurai films are set in times of war. But today Japan lives in a time of peace. Its inhabitants do not risk their lives or their careers every They are more sensitive to the cinema of Ozu or Mizoguchi. But in China, in Africa, in Turkey, everyone is in danger of life or death, everyone risks their life, their reputation, their career; These people understand the stakes of Kurosawa's characters."

On Kurosawa: A Tribute to the Master Director, par Peter Tasker. Ed. Shashasha

On Kurosawa: A Tribute to the Master Director, by Peter Tasker. Ed.Shashasha

On Kurosawa: A Tribute to the Master Director, by Peter Tasker. Ed.Shashasha

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