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The Genius of Akira Kurosawa

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, April 16, 2024 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0461
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Akira Kurosawa, 1937

For 50 years, Akira Kurosawa (1910­–1998) reigned supreme as Japan’s premier filmmaker and one of the world’s leading cinematic masters. After Kurosawa’s landmark Rashomon (1950) won festival prizes in Venice and an Oscar for Best Foreign-language Film, cinephiles throughout the globe embraced both the director’s prolific genius and the remarkable post-World War II film culture of Japan. The mastery of Kurosawa is evidenced in the 31 unforgettable films he directed between 1943 and 1993, 16 of which starred his strikingly charismatic alter-ego, Tôshiro Mifune.

Kurosawa is best known today as the filmmaking warrior behind such masterful swordplay spectacles as The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro, which electrified art screens throughout the 1950s and early ’60s. So popular and influential were these “Far Eastern westerns” that they were officially remade as Hollywood westerns (The Magnificent Seven) and gangland sagas (Last Man Standing). There were also unofficial remakes and “reimaginings”: Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (clearly inspired by Yojimbo) and George Lucas’s Star Wars (influenced by Kurosawa’s medieval adventure The Hidden Fortress).

But there are other sides to Akira Kurosawa: the director’s forays into film noir (Drunken Angel, Stray Dog, High and Low); Shakespearean tragedy (Throne of Blood, The Bad Sleep Well, Ran); literary adaptations of Dostoyevsky (The Idiot) and Maxim Gorky (The Lower Depths); and an Oscar-winning Russian co-production (Dersu Uzala). These do not even consider such human psychological dramas as No Regrets for Our Youth, One Wonderful Sunday, Record of a Living Being, Dodes'ka-den, Rhapsody in August, and the final Kurosawa–Mifune collaboration, Red Beard. Even Kurosawa’s haunting To Live was recently remade in England as Living.

Film historian Max Alvarez unfolds this sweeping saga, tracing Akira Kurosawa’s remarkable life from a meteoric rise at Toho Studios during the 1930s through personal and professional triumphs, frustrations, and artistic comebacks.

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