In his late, color masterpiece Kagemusha, Akira Kurosawa returned to the samurai film and to a primary theme of his career—the play between illusion and reality. Sumptuously reconstructing the splendor of feudal Japan and the pageantry of war, Kurosawa creates a historical epic that is also a meditation on the nature of power. —The Criterion Collection
The son of an army officer, Kurosawa studied art before gravitating to film as a means of supporting himself. He served seven years as an assistant to director Kajiro Yamamoto before he began his own directorial career with Sanshiro Sugata (1943), a film about the 19th century struggle for supremacy between adherents of judo and jujitsu that so impressed the military government, he was prevailed upon to make a sequel (Sanshiro Sugata Part Two). Following the end of World War II, Kurosawa’s career gathered speed with a series of films that cut across all genres, from crime thrillers to period dramas. Among the latter, his Rashomon (1951) became the first postwar Japanese film to find wide favor with Western audiences. It was Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (1954), however, that made the largest impact of any of his movies outside of Japan. Although heavily cut for its original release, this three-hour-plus medieval action drama, shot with painstaking… read more
Between the softness of Dersu Uzala and the grandeur of Ran, is the soft grandeur of Kagemusha, in which Kurosawa revisits his old stomping ground in assured return to form, and whose exploration of dynastic feud and class comment (here encompassing its Jean Valjean-esque title figure) remains unfailing in power. Along with its vibrant colour spectrum - energised by the earlier dabbling of Dodesukaden - its precise choreography, captured by elegant long takes, indeed soften its tempo, creating a unique, triumphant blend of on-screen grace and artistry.