I wrote in my last post (Screenwriting from Japan) that many Japanese films are about respect and honor. Akira Kurosawa, who was the youngest of eight children, was born in Toyko in 1910 and would go on as a film director and screenwriter to gain the respect and honor of some of the greatest filmmakers in history including Fellini, Bergman, Spielberg, Lucas, and Coppola.
Martin Scorsese said of Kurosawa, “His influence on filmmakers throughout the entire world is so profound as to be almost incomparable.”
But one of the things that may make his films so accessible and enduring to those outside Japan is that Kurosawa was influenced by Frank Capra, William Wyler, Howard Hawks, John Ford and William Shakespere.
And if you want to follow a nice exercise of how creativity is passed around read Shakespere’s King Lear and watch Kurosawa’s Ran. Watch Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (1954) and then watch The Magnificent Seven (1960). Read Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan IIyich and then watch Kurosawa’s Ikiru.
As original as we think we are, “There’s nothing new under the sun.” But it doesn’t hurt to expose yourself to the wisdom and creativity of great artists from the past.
”With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. With the same script, a mediocre director can produce a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can’t possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. The script must be something that has the power to do this.”
Kurosawa died in 1998, but look for some celebrations coming as the 100th anniversary of his birth arrives March 23. And for a list of Kurosawa’s films check out The Criterion Collection.
And, for good measure, I’ll toss in this quote by Tom Cruise;
“I was 18 when I saw Akira Kurosawa’s Shinchinin no samurai (Seven Samurai). After about 30 seconds, I realized that this was not just a cultural thing, it was universal. Years later, I read Bushido. It talked about many things that I strive for in my own life: loyalty, compassion, responsibility, the idea of looking back on your life and taking responsibility for everything you’ve ever done. I’m fascinated by the samurai and the samurai code – it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to make The Last Samurai.”