About the blog:
Until his film Rashomon won the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1951, the films of Akira Kurosawa (and all of Japan for that matter) were almost completely unknown to the West. Many of his films were not seen in the West until decades after they were released in Japan.
Since 1984 the Criterion Collection has been releasing films on home video; first on laser-disc, then on DVD and now just recently on Blu-ray disc.
16 of Akira Kurosawa's films have been released by the Criterion Collection, with an additional 5 that have been released by their budget line of DVDs called the Eclipse Series.
Thanks to the Criterion Collection, this blog is possible. I am completely indebted to them for both stimulating my interest in foreign film, and for increasing my knowledge on the rich history of the medium.
It is my intention with this blog to publish both a detailed analysis and background of each one of Akira Kurosawa's films released by the Criterion Collection.
Kurosawa's films have affected my career very much, and his films continue to both educate and inspire me, and I would like to share that with all who read this blog.
About the blogger:
Kevan Smoliak was born on Sept. 3, 1987 in Eden Prairie, Minn. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with degrees in Journalism and Studies in Cinema and Media Culture.
He works as a manager at the St. Anthony Main Theatre and part time for the non-profit group Minnesota Film Arts.
He first heard of Kurosawa when he began to broaden his knowledge of the film world. He had heard of the film Seven Samurai but had no real intention of seeing it any time soon, passing off Japanese film as an inferior product to domestic films.
In one of his films classes at the UofM he learned that he was to be watching Kurosawa's Rashomon. He immediately took to the film and the director and pursued this interest by purchasing Kurosawa's film released by the Criterion Collection. This has led him to this blog.
About the Subject:
Akira Kurosawa was born on March 23, 1910 in a suburb of Tokyo, Japan. He was the youngest of 8 children born of Isamu and Shima Kurosawa. His family had a history of great samurai.
His father was an athletics teacher and, according to Kurosawa in his autobiography, built the very first swimming pool ever in Japan.
Kurosawa was encouraged by his father to go to the movies, and he was not the first to enter the industry. His older brother Heigo was one of the most famous benshi in Japan. It was the job of the benshi at movie theaters to narrate both the action and provide the dialogue for silent films. With the coming of sound, the benshi were beginning to lose their jobs. Heigo would later lead a strike by the benshi. The strike did not succeed and Heigo would later take his own life.
Kurosawa, in the meantime, attempted a career as a painter. When that failed he proceeded to respond on a whim to an ad in a newspaper for an assistant director job at the company PCL (which later became Toho studios).
Kurosawa wrote an essay for the application and after an interview was accepted to the job. He went on to work with then famous director Kajiro Yamamoto, a man who had a profound influence on Kurosawa's work as a director.
Many more experiences would affect Akira Kurosawa throughout his life, but to fully capture it would require me to write an entire biography of the man. This was merely a brief preface to his life prior to beginning his career as a full-fledged film director.
From 1943 to 1993, Kurosawa directed 30 films. Perhaps this quote by admirer Francis Ford Coppola sums up Kurosawa's work best.
"One thing that distinguishes Akira Kurosawa is that he didn't make a masterpiece or two masterpieces, he made, you know, eight masterpieces."