I’ve seen Seven Samurai and Rashomon so far, but I am not all that impressed for some reason. Granted, I’ve only seen each film once, but I have no desire to sit through either one of them a second time. For some reason, they did not seem to resonate with me.
If they don’t resonate with you, then why watch them? But remember also that both The Seven Samurai and Rashomon have been remade several times, so the plot should seem rather familiar. I don’t really know what else to say. Even among “classic” movies, there will always be some you won’t like. You should never feel obligated to enjoy something.
Hmmm, well you might try reading some analysis of his works to get a firm grasp on why so many people are so into him or try and pinpoint what about the 2 films you saw left you sort of cold (e.g.: acting style, pacing). It may just be that he isn’t your cup of tea…so to speak. Either way I wouldn’t worry about it. Take a break from AK’s films and watch Come and See and a few others on your “to do” list then you can approach Kurosawa with fresh eyes. As I find myself saying a lot lately:There is no law that says you have to like his films but as a movie buff it would benefit you to know why others do. Happy viewing.
“The Seven Samurai” and “Rashomon” are his most famous films, but Kurosawa is a lot morethan that. My personal fave is “Ikiru” — the story of a seemingly unimportant civil servant who gives his live meaning just as it’s about to coem to an end.
I’m also crazy about “Three Bad Men in a Hidden Fortress” ( ruthelssly ripped-off by Lucas to create somethign called “Star Wars”), “Stray Dog,” “High and Low,” “The Bad Sleep Well,” “No Regrets For Our Youth,” “The Idiot” and of course “Ran.”
His last film “Madadayo” is an especial treasure — the best film ever made about a search for a lost cat.
i would have to say to really focus on the cinematography and the way the shots are set up and pulled off.
it really was an art form for Kurosawa which makes his films easy to appreciate.
The first time that I saw Rashomon, I wasn’t that impressed. I liked it, but not as much as I liked Yojimbo, The Seven Samurai or Ikiru. I think that part of the reason that I didn’t see it as groundbreaking was that the concept of the Rashomon effect was familiar before I saw the movie. I recently watched it again, and was impressed. The extras on the Criterion DVD go into some detail about the difficulties and innovation involved in the long tracking shot through the forest. I was also impressed by the decision to present the witnesses’ answers without letting the audience here the judge’s questions, putting the audience in the position of the judge. The biggest factor in my increased appreciation, however, was probably the 25 years or more that had passed between the viewings.
I think that Yojimbo is Kurosawa’s most accessible movie, and Ikiru is his best movie. I’m guessing that you saw the two movies recently. I would suggest that , if you didn’t dislike the two movies, you try a few more by Kurosawa. You shouldn’t try to force yourself to value something because others do, but if you assume that Kurosawa was trying to say something, his other movies may help put these movies in context.
One thing that I’m sure that I missed the first time was the movie’s relevance to post-war Japan, which now seemed obvious because I had watched No Regrets For Our Youth and One Wonderful Sunday shortly before my most recent viewing of Rashomon. The decaying Rashomon Gate paralleled the devastation of post-war Japan, which suggests that the lessons of the movie are not limited to the medieval past.
Definitely try Yojimbo first.
And keep this in mind: he was once asked what all of his films were about, and he said they were all about a question. “Why can’t people be happier, and why can’t they be happier together?”
I think Ikiru could stand to be his best work (although I’ve seen little of Kurosawa’s oeuvre to substantially argue this). Its an incredibly honest film that has much to say about the existential man in the modern age. It certainly deserves more recognition from a director that is well known.
I’d say start with Ran. It’s almost the most straightforward o.O
Yes, Yojimbo and Sanjuro should be your next Kurosawas. When I first got into “serious” film, Kurosawa and his more humorous and laid-back films were the first that managed to grip me.
I’ve always found a lot more to be aprreciated in his non samurai films, esp. High and Low, Stray Dog and Ikiru. Try those out and you might just see Kurosawa in a whole new light.
If his Jidaigeki films don’t seem to be your cup of tea give his more modern films a shot: The Bad Sleep Well is one of my favorites.
Ok, let me start out by saying that Akira Kurosawa is my favorite filmmaker in the entire history of the medium, and also my favorite artist in any form, so naturally this is going to be a lengthy post.’
The first AK I watched was Seven Samurai. I liked it but I thought it was way overrated. (Since then I’ve grown to love it and know why it’s so treasured) Then I went on to Yojimbo. Yojimbo is a fantastic film to me on many levels. One, how iconic it is. The classic lines, shots, charectors, and scenerios. It just sticks with you. Technically it’s beautiful. The scores great. Mifune’s great, but the plot (specifically the last 30 minutes) and all it’s twists and turns is what makes it the amazing film it is. (AK would create similarly clever plots with the sequal Sanjuro and his contemporary thriller High and Low)…Sanjuro, I think, depending on the person, is a slightly more enjoyable film. Whatever your preference, I highly, highly, highly, suggest you see Yojimbo and Sanjuro next. Or, if you choose, Hidden Fortress is also a safe choice. It’s Kurosawa close to his funnest, but he’s still amazing.
I guess it all depends on what you’re looking for in film. What entertains you? What affects you? Obviously I have a profound love for Kurosawa so I’m afraid I’m a little too biased to give you a fair, mature and helpful answer. All I can do is suggest, suggest, suggest because, honestly…I dunno. Someone not atleast moderately enjoying Kurosawa just doesn’t sit right with me. Like I feel a desperate urge to do something about it but hey, people like what they like.
Now, back to Kurosawa. A question, does the austhetic aspect of film affect you? Is it important to you? That may be a key to enjoying or not enjoying AK. His films are visually creative, original, beautiful and expertly crafted. His shot compositions are amazing. Aside from being a filmmaker, Kurosawa is also a painter, so that probably explains alot into why he’s so damn good behind that camera.
But I digress once again… I think Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and it’s sequal, as well as Hidden Fortress are his most accessable and most loved films but I don’t think they’re his best. Ikiru, for me, easily takes that cake. One thing that must be understood, period piece Kurosawa and contemporary Kurosawa are two different types of films, completely. (Though, his style is rather consistent.) For period piece films, other than what you’ve seen and what I’ve already suggested, I highly reccomend Red Beard. It’s beautiful visually and with the emotional testements it features. The film is amazing on so many levels. HIs late works Kagemusha and Ran, aswell as his 50’s Shakespeare adaptation of Macbeth, Throne of Blood are also quite good. (Ran is my favorite of his period pieces)
Now, for contemporary AK, which at times I think is the superior of the two, his late 40’s works Stray Dog and Drunken Angel are both compelling, technically gorgeous but not without a sence of poigniancy. Everyone points out Hidden Fortress as the inspiration for Star Wars but no one seems to notice a rather obviously similar scene in Drunken Angel to one in Empire Strikes Back…
Also in the contemporary, High and Low is one of the greatest thrillers ever made.
Well I hoped this help but I’m sure it didn’t too much. It’s 5:30 in the morning and my writing prowess is probably asleep even though my fingers and eyes are still up.
There is still many AK films I’ve yet to see. I haven’t seen Dodeskaden, Dersu Uzala, The Idiot, The Bad Sleep Well, or The Lower Depths yet… However I try to see a new one of his films every now and then, not all at once. I often use them for cures of seeing a chain of bad or so-so movies. AK is deffinately one director I can trust to deliver every single time, which is part of why he’s my favorite.
Just letting you know I’m not trying to front my self as an AK expert. Just a huge huge huge fan.
Oh and by the way, (I promise I’ll shut up after this) not right away but after awhile, I strongly suggest returning to Rashomon and Seven Samurai. Though I did like them at first I never truelly appreciated them fully until a second and third viewing a couple years (and several AK’s) later.
I actually felt the same way about Kurosawa for a while. I think part of the problem is that Kurosawa has been such an influence over modern day filmmakers, especially Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, and Scorsese, who in-turn influenced everyone working in movies today. It is easy to see what made Kurosawa special as blending in to the background of modern cinema. This is where the Criterion Collection shines especially well. Not only with the supplements on the DVDs that give you further insight into Kurosawa’s technique, but the opportunities to evaluate one filmmaker in the context of their contemporaries and time period. You can understand what made Kurosawa great after seeing his influences and contemporaries like Ford, Ozu, Mizoguchi, and those reacting against the dominant style that Kurosawa operated in and influenced, like Suzuki, Imamura, and Teshigahara.
It always amazes me when people say they don’t get Kurosawa. I can’t think of any major artist in cinema whose work is so utterly accessible, who merely expects you to sit down and watch. So just sit down and watch. But keep in mind that you have to watch carefully.
Of course, if you’re watching these film on TV, or even worse, your computer, you are doing the films and yourself a disservice. These films should be seen on a big screen. I realize of course that this isn’t always possible, but you should reserve judgment on these films until you’ve seen them BIG.
So keep watching these films. But I’m going to have to say this: if SEVEN SAMURAI really doesn’t resonate with you, then you should probably just stop watching serious cinema altogether.
I much prefer Kurosawa’s jedaigeki works to his modern-day ones. But even within his modern day ones, I find Ikiru to be his weakest. Not so sharing of the appreciation there, all of those jazzy night-on-the-town scenes fell completely flat for me (though I do like the shot from silence to sound that was later homaged by Aronofsky in The Fountain and the image of him sitting on the swing is really nice).
But yeah, sometimes it helps to see a little “laid back” Kurosawa to mix up all his epics and social commentaries. Not that there isn’t commentary in Yojimbo, but still, it’s so fun that you aren’t required to care and can just appreciate the story as is.
Don’t give up on this great director. Try a noir, “Stray Dog” or a police procedural, “High and Low”.
For the record, “Seven Samurai” is both the greatest deconstruction of bushido and the greatest analysis of the warrior class ever put on film.
Movies are only as good as you think they are. See a movie twice if you’ll understand it better but don’t force yourself to enjoy Kurosawa if you don’t. I detested Godard’s Alphaville and don’t consider Vivre sa Vie or Band a Part masterpieces. If a so called “masterpiece” doesn’t move you then that’s just how it is.
Disliking Ozu, Kurosawa, Godard, Dreyer or Renoir doesn’t make anyone less of a “serious” film lover. The people who forces themself to enjoy films are tools and idiots.
Pick up THE FILMS OF AKIRA KUROSAWA by Donald Ritchie.
If he doesn’t convince you that Kurosawa is a master then nothing will. [Which would be sad because Kurosawa’s films really are remarkable – especially on the big screen.]
If someone dislikes Ozu, Kurosawa, Godard, Dreyer or Renoir [all together] it would pretty much mean to me that the person is not a serious film lover. I mean, come on! Cinema would not be what it is without these masters. I’m not sure if you actually dislike these filmmakers but you seem to be making an argument for the exclusion of cinema rather than the inclusion of cinema. If someone only knows and loves films [say] post Star Wars then in my book they are not serious about film at all and they may as well stick to TV and video games and twinkies. And it is not a matter of forcing anyone to enjoy these films. It is instead telling them to open their eyes and look.
Point taken Matt, but they do not necessarily need to be huge fans of those particular directors in order to be certified as serious film lovers.
What if they all prefer Resnais, Pasolini, Lang, Wong Kar Wai, and Melville
The first two Kurosawa films I saw were Seven Samurai and Rashomon. Neither one of them really hit home the first time. Seven Samurai, however, has grown to be one of my most favorite movies. Rashomon is a great film, and I do enjoy it a lot, but there are many others I would go back to first.
It was Red Beard that first really knocked my socks off. It was a powerful film that really struck a chord with me. During this past spring I caught the Kurosawa retrospective that passed through town, seventeen films in all, and they all brought significant pleasure, but it is Red Beard that stands out as the most memorable and with the greatest impact. So, I would really suggest giving that one a try.
Yojimbo is another favorite. It is entertaining in a more lighthearted and humorous manner. Dersu Uzala also left a greater impression than most, but I don’t know if it could really be appreciated on anything but the silver screen.
if you need advice to appreciate Kurosawa I suggest you give up, you either like them or don’t, there’s nothing wrong with not enjoying them, I personally love them and whenever I get the chance I will tell people to watch Ran, it’s definitely my favorite Kurosawa. My little sisters who’s 12 (and clueless about Film) has only seen like 2 subtitled films and managed to sit through all of Seven Samurai and love it, one doesn’t need advice to appreciate a film.
As others have already mentioned, Yojimbo is easily Kurosawa’s most accessible film (remember, that it was remade twice I believe, so the plot may seem familiar – you also have to keep in mind the timelines of these films, when Seven Samurai was released there was very little like it in popular cinema at the time … and narratively, there was nothing like Rashomon). High and Low is great as well, and Red Beard and The Bad Sleep Well … all great.
My personal favourite is Drunken Angel – that’s his best film for me. It’s intimate and simple, minimalist and raw blending dark humour and violence (not to mention that violent dancing!) with sentiment and almost a fable-like quality. Wonderful soundtrack as well.
There’s also Kurosawa’s Macbeth adaptation Throne of Blood – and if that film doesn’t resonate then I don’t know what will. Incredible imagery and art direction.
Agreed. I sort of took the argument by Johan to be a generalization about disliking all the major filmmakers – especially non Hollywood ones to be his point. But, yes, one can dislike Dreyer et al and love Melville et al instead.
I definitely do not think that one is obligated to like the classics just because they are classics. But I do think there has to be an appreciation for the fact that these films and filmmakers are lauded by some. Especially Renoir and Kurosawa – to name two. They are both masters of the medium and I do not think that can be questioned. However one CAN dislike or not connect with some of their films. People are entitled to their opinions. But, again, check out that Ritchie book on Kurosawa. It will enrich your experience.
Kurosawa’s body of work is so wide and so diverse (Yet, as I’ve said so consistent) that I’d consider it a crime to give up on him after just two of his films. As other people have said try a noir. Kurosawa really has something for everybody I think, but I may be wrong. And from what people are saying here I really need to see “The Bad Sleep Well”… =]
Anyway back to the point. I don’t think you should jump to conclusions about Kurosawa just yet. I’d say deffinately see the films suggested here. Not a bad one mentioned from what I’ve seen (remember I’m someone who is completely convinced that the man’s never made a bad film)…
When watching a Kurosawa, it’s important to try not to be thinking the whole time of what poigniant message or underlying meaning the film has but to simply watch and enjoy, all the rest will come to you naturally that way.
The best advice for appreciating Kurosawa, in my opinion, is to just watch ALL of his best films. Two of which isn’t enough to make a fair judgement and would really be a crime to give up at that.
And by the way I would think a fan of Melville would deffinately enjoy High and Low.