The fourth film from Akira Kurosawa is based on a legendary twelfth-century incident in which the lord Yoshitsune and a group of samurai retainers dressed as monks in order to pass through a dangerous enemy checkpoint. The story was dramatized for centuries in Noh and kabuki theater, and here it becomes one of the director’s most riveting early films. —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
Out of all his films made during WII this would have to be my favorite. If the film kept a completely faithful look at the Kabuki/Noh drama then this film would've been just an adequate & straightforward film. However the inclusion of the porter, played brilliantly by Enomoto, brings the film to life with his scene-stealing performance that undercuts the seriousness of the source material.
Made five years before Rashômon, Kurosawa's first tale of feudal times also has a forest setting. It was shot under severe budgetary restrictions with just one set and is an anecdote based on fact, familiar to Japanese audiences due to its appearance in the Noh and Kabuki repertoires. The film was released seven years after it was made due to being banned by the US occupying forces for allegedly being militaristic..
Back to basics. Proof that in order to create classic art, you must be free of the constraints of a populist agenda. In this concise masterpiece, Kurosawa returns to the optimistic melodramatic voice which made him great. Here, a sense of brotherhood is better pronounced than in 7 SAMURAI. The flower symbolism is present, as are classic and archetypal characters. The story is pushed along by great wiped transitions.
The concept behind the box is simplicity itself, exemplified by its title: "25 Films By Akira Kurosawa." This is released in commemoration