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Kurosawa: The Last Emperor (1999)

A profile and history of film director Akira Kurosawa.

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Paul Joyce ...
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Kazuko Kurosawa ...
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Teruyo Nogami ...
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Donald Richie ...
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Arturo Ripstein ...
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Senkichi Taniguchi ...
Himself - Childhood Friend
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A profile and history of film director Akira Kurosawa.

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the speed-reader's guide to Kurosawa history, as part eulogy
23 March 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Akira Kurosawa's life and films barely got the full time allotted him in the documentary that came out a year after this one, titled just Kurosawa, and Cox's film is even shorter, but at least his doc the Last Emperor gets a couple of interesting bits amid the usual scraps of facts. For someone who's only seen Rashomon or Seven Samurai from Kurosawa, or even nothing at all, the film proves to be a suitable form of speed-reading, in a sense, cause you get to know all the essentials without the hang-ups of going into all of the little details one shallow enough might not care for. So it's the opposite of the most elaborate, painstakingly researched book The Emperor and the Wolf, and we get a mix of interviews from family, ex-crew members, critics, and directors who sometimes gush over him, and sometimes point out some interesting stories. One Russian filmmaker, for example, relays a great story about how Kurosawa was not the typical Japanese personality by actually getting very angry during a conversation.

Or when Kurosawa's presence leaving home was almost a sign of relief (finally, he's out of the house, Kurosawa's daughter was quoted saying his mother said about him) from the long periods where there was no work, and almost no nothing really. There's also a very painful story in the Tora, Tora, Tora scandal that Donald Richie tells, with Cox putting in little jabs of editing to punctuate it all. Cox, of course, is choosy in what he puts into the film from Kurosawa's films, and only leaves in the prestigious works (Rashomon, Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, Ran, etc), without putting any mention to the great underrated works like Drunken Angel or High and Low (though with a good little mention to Madadayo). But it does amount to a pretty fair tribute to one of the masters of world cinema, a man who ate, slept and breathed movies and seemed to work almost in sync with the world when he was working. Very short and to the point on the bulletins of influences for Kurosawa, and whom he influenced, but if you got less than an hour to kill it's worth the time.


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