Great Performances: Season 30, Episode 9

Kurosawa (21 Mar. 2002)

TV Episode  -   -  Biography | Drama | Music
7.5
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Title: Kurosawa (21 Mar 2002)

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Narrator: Until his death in 1998, Kurosawa directed over thirty films, including 'Rashômon', 'Seven Samurai', 'Throne of Blood' and 'Ran'. His work was a huge influence of directors like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, who revered him as a master of the cinema. He was criticised in Japan for appealing to an International audience, yet he did more than anything else to reveal Japanese society to the West.
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Very PBS-Friendly Documentary
15 September 2003 | by (Chapel Hill, NC, USA) – See all my reviews

I would love to see a real filmmaker (Wim Wenders? Scorsese?) tackle Kurosawa - this documentary has it's moments but its' omissions are a little shocking.

The earliest bits - detailing Kurosawa's youth and family were most appealing (in spite of the re-enactments); about 1/3 of the way in this documentary really loses steam, offering few insights into Kurosawa's work - with some shocking omissions: STRAY DOG, THE IDIOT, BAD SLEEP WELL, LOWER DEPTHS, HIDDEN FORTRESS and HIGH & LOW aren't touched upon, and are all essential to understanding Kurosawa's working methods and worldview. The voice-over text holding this doc together is largely drawn from Kurosawa's own 'Something Like An Autobiography,' which focuses on his early career; apparently the filmmakers felt it adequate to leave off with that, before wrapping things up with a brief look at his 80s comeback. This was very much a miscalculation.

I did enjoy the late James Coburn's reflections upon SEVEN SAMURAI - Coburn came off more like a fanboy than a grizzled veteran, and had his detailed and affectionate appreciation rubbed off on the makers of this documentary it might've really been more of a success. Seeing Japanese screen icon Machiko Kyo was a real treat, and Kurosawa colleagues and scholars like Donald Ritchie and the great Kon Ichikawa were welcome presences; I wished they were given more time to offer opinions. Overall this is no waste of time, but if you're already a fan of Kurosawa, you won't get much out of this either.

And if you're really interested at getting into the thoughts, processes, themes and philosophies of Kurosawa, check out some of his less well-known films, the ones ignored here. The hits are as great as they are, but the intricacies of films like RED BEARD, LOWER DEPTHS, IKIRU and STRAY DOG are fascinating, complex and present a well-formed creative universe far more vast than anything suggested in this documentary.


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