Kurosawa films to tour nationWhat do Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola have in common, besides being successful American directors? For one thing, all three considered Akira Kurosawa an inspiration.
Film buffs in Seoul will have the sublime opportunity to take in a retrospective on the legendary Japanese director, starting today at Seoul Art Cinema. Fifteen Kurosawa films have been selected for screening at this local art house by Cinematheque Seoul, a nonprofit group of cinephiles. Except for “Ran” (1985), which comes with French subtitles, and “Dreams” (1990), which doesn’t really need subtitles, the remaining 13 films are English-subtitled.
The life of Kurosawa, the first Japanese director to win the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Oscars, was as stormy as his films. Abandoning a teenage dream of being a painter, Kurosawa instead launched a film career, debuting as a director at age 33 with a coming-of-age action film, “Sugata Sanshiro” (1943). He began to cement his reputation with “Rashomon” (1950), which earned the grand prize at the Venice International Film Festival. In the 1950s, his career continued with classics like “The Castle of the Spider’s Web,” based on “Macbeth,” and the landmark “The Seven Samurai,” a vigorous, action-packed drama. His 1958 film “Three Rascals in the Hidden Fortress” was an inspiration for George Lucas’s “Star Wars” series.
Though international acclaim did not necessarily sell tickets, Kurosawa held fast to his style. His movies commanded big budgets and had to be packed with movement. Thus, his films were well received by critics and cinephiles alike. Even so, his grandiose spending habits led Kurosawa to find himself shunned by Japanese film producers.
Rather than compromise, Kurosawa turned to the world outside Japan, and found himself welcomed by peers like Lucas, Coppola and Martin Scorsese. Problems continued, though; 20th Century Fox fired him during the filming of “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and his 1971 film “Dodesukaden” (Clickety-Clack) failed to attract audiences; not long after, he attempted suicide.
He made a strong comeback with “Kagemusha” (Shadow Warrior) and “Yume” (Dreams), which he filmed with the support of Lucas, Coppola and Spielberg. Until the day of his death in 1998, Kurosawa was busy making films.
In this retrospective, 15 films that have had few if any screenings in Korea will be shown. Online tickets for “The Seven Samurai,” inspiration for the Western “The Magnificent Seven” and the quintessence of Kurosawa’s belief that a movie should be full of energy and movement, are already sold out, though a few dozen tickets are still available at the box office. On the other hand, “Dreams” is a chance to see beautiful cinematography in a group of nine stories based on the director’s own dreams. His early works like “Sugata Sanshiro” and “Drunken Angel” also await.
The retrospective runs to April 25 in Seoul, then will be shown in Gwangju from May 6, Daegu from May 13, Jeonju from May 19 and Cheongju from May 27.
by Chun Su-jin
Tickets are 6,000 won ($5) per screening. Seoul Art Cinema sits in the heart of the capital near Insa-dong. It is best reached via subway line No. 3 to Anguk Station. Take exit 1 and walk to your right in the direction of the Art Sonje Center. The theater is in the basement of the art center. For more information, call Cinematheque Seoul at (02) 3272-8707 or visit the Web site www.cinemathequeseoul.org.