Kurosawa Akira

Kurosawa Akira
Heroes and Heroism
Kurosawa’s Films
Kurosawa Akira (1910-1998)
(early life)
• His dream to be an artist; he
went to art school after his
secondary education.
• Avid reader of classic
literature: Dostoevsky,
Tolstoy, Gorky, Shakespeare,
Kurosawa’s Films
• Entered PCL in 1936 at the
age of 26 as an assistant
director. He mainly
worked for Yamamoto
• Wrote many scripts: before
he became a director –
Kurosawa wrote scripts for
all his films. Strong, clear
narrative line and sharp
Kurosawa’s Films
Sanshiro Sugata (1943) 姿三四郎
The Most Beautiful (1944) 一番美しく
Sugata Sanshiro Part II (1945) 続姿三四郎
The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail (1945)
• No Regrets for Our Youth (1946)
One Beautiful Sunday (1946) 素晴らしき日曜日
Drunken Angel (1948) 酔いどれ天使
The Quiet Duel (1949) 静かなる決闘
Stray Dog (1949) 野良犬
Kurosawa’s Films
Scandal (1950) 醜聞
Rashomon (1950) 羅生門
Idiot (1951) 白痴
Ikiru (1952) 生きる
Seven Samurai (1954) 七人の侍
I Live in Fear (1955) 生きものの記録
Throne of Blood (1957) 蜘蛛の巣城
The Lower Depths (1957) どん底
The Hidden Fortress (1958) 隠し砦の三悪人
The Bad Sleeps Well (1960) 悪い奴ほどよく眠る
Kurosawa’s Films
Yojinbo (1961) 用心棒
Sanjuro (1962) 椿三十郎
High and Low (1963) 天国と地獄
Red Beard (1965) あかひげ
Dodesukaden (1970) どですかでん
Dersu Uzala (1975) デルス・ウザーラ
Kagemusha (1980) 影武者
Ran (1985) 乱
Dream (1990) 夢
Rhapsody in August (1991) 八月の狂詩曲
Madadayo (1993) まあだだよ
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
Creation of heroes and anti-heroes.
• Male characters who are strong, courageous, resilient,
morally correct and often reckless.
• Sanshiro in Sugata Sanshiro - a traditional hero.
• MATSUNAGA (Toshiro Mifune), a punk, and Dr.
SANADA (Shimura Takashi), an alcoholic doctor in
Drunken Angel - anti heroes
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• The minor civil servant WATANABE Kanji in
Ikiru (1952) who discovers that he is terminally ill
with cancer and starts desperately searching
meaning for life [short remaining life]. The most
unlikely person proves to be a great little hero.
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• Heroic warriors in Seven Samurai - Kanbei,
Katsushiro, Gorobei, Shichijiro, Kyuzo, Heihachi,
and Kikuchiyo
• Characterization based on the sharp observation of
human types and differentiation in characters
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• SHIMADA Kanbei
• Though a great samurai and cool strategist, he is
not fortunate in battles fighting on the losing sides.
Now, masterless, but he has every quality to be a
great leader and fights against 70 bandits with his
six men.
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• KATAYAMA Gorobei
• Experienced and masterful samurai, who is a
great strategist supporting Kanbei as his righthand man, though he does not look like it. He is
always calm and self-controlled.
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• Shichiroji
• He worked for Kanbei before he lost tenure.
Extremely loyal to Kanbei and knows perfectly
what his former master wants and behaves. A
model of feudal man of honour and duty.
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• HAYASHIDA Heihachi
• Not a great swordsman but has a great sense of
humour cheering other samurais and villagers.
He has warm sensitivity.
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• Kyuzo
• Extremely self-disciplined and ascetic master
swordsman on move. He believes he can trust in
nobody but himself. He shows no emotion but is
not nihilist.
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• OKAMOTO Katsushiro
• Young, novice samurai, who is from a good
family and adores Kanbei. He is naïve and
innocent to grow up under the tutelage of Kanbei.
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• Kikuchiyo
• A son of peasants and war orphan. Utterly
unconventional and extremely emotional person,
pretending he is a samurai. Fierce and reckless
fighter in battles though he has no skills as a
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• ‘Seven samurai is about the relationship between
the samurai and the villagers. And I wanted to
show each samurai as an individual.’ Kurosawa
• Sympathy towards peasants - pretect
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• Throne of Blood retells Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
• WASHIZU Takatoki (Mifune Toshiro) murders
his master following partly the prophesies given
by a medium and his wife’s cajolement.
• Tragic Shakespearean hero
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• The masterless samurai, KUWABATAKE
Sanjuro who by chance walks into a town
dominated by two rival groups of gangsters and
two influential merchants who rely on their
protection. Sanjoro devices to destroy both
parties. Yojinbo A great medieval anti-hero.
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• A group of idealistic young men, determined to
clean up the corruption in their town, are aided by
a scruffy, cynical samurai (TSUBAKI
Sanjuro)who does not at all fit their concept of a
noble worrior. Sanjuro - a great medieval antihero.
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• In Red Beard (1965) the doctor named NI’IDE
looks after the poor and wretched who can barely
pays medical bills and the young doctor
YASUMOTO who learns under his tutelage that
he can do more good for working in his clinic than
becoming a court doctor.
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• High and Low (1963) - The wealthy company
executive, GONDO, mortgages everything he has
to buy out his company. The son of his chauffeur
is kidnapped being mistaken for his own child. He
agrees to pay the ransom from the money that he
has saved to take over the company.
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• A Russian tribesman is an unlikely hero who
guides a team of a Russian topographical
expedition in a Siberian journey in the extreme
climate. Derus Uzala
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• Humanist concerns - the revelation of
deprived and oppressive conditions and the
demonstration of the wish to improve them.
• Humanism - all human beings are rational
and can be enlightened. Thus, they have
dignity and worth which are unique to
themselves. Trust in human goodness.
• The pursuit of humanitarian and humanistic
ideals led to heroism and heroic actions in
Kurosawa’s Auteuristic Motifs and Themes
• Kurosawa’s heroes - willing to do greater and
nobler things - sacrifice themselves for this
• Kurosawa’s anti-heroes try to be honest to their
individual demands - existentialist demands which
are at the same time public demands.
• An imperfect young man becomes a hero by
encountering an older ‘tutor’and growing up; the
wretched becomes a hero though his potential
revealed by coincidental circumstances.
Humanism and
• SUGATA Sanshiro is at first a brash, selfconfident student of martial arts. However, he
gradually masters the true spirit of Judo and
attains enlightenment under a influential teacher:
harming the opponent and winning a match is not
the ultimate aim of Judo. Its true purpose lies in
gaining total self-control and bettering oneself.
Humanism and
• In Ikiru, the terminally ill cancer patient, Watanabe Kanji,
is determined to do what is generally considered
impossible and unachievable, though he does not have
many days to live. He gives everything he has to get a
mosquito-infected bog drained and make it into a public
• Heroism of a small man and petit bureaucrat
• Humanism defeats bureaucracy
Humanism and
• In Seven Samurai the defense of the village
against the bandits is an act of humanitarianism,
humanism and heroism.
• Helping those who suffer.
‘Again we have been defeated. The winners are
those farmers, but not us.’
Kanbei Shimada
Humanism and Heroism
• Humanist theme is
conveyed through the
anti-hero, Kuwagatake
• He agrees to be a
bodyguard to one faction
and then the other just
because it amuses him.
He soon decides that it is
better if all die.
• Sanjuro helps out
suffering townsfolk.
Humanism and Heroism
• Red Beard (1965)
• Helping others, particularly
the deprived and poor, is the
quintessential moral
obligation of ‘civil’ society.
• Compassion and
conscientiousness play the
prominent role in Kurosawa’s
films from the late 1940s and
throughout the 1950 and 60s.
Humanism and Heroism
‘I had something special in mind when I
made this film … I wanted to make
something that my audience would want to
see, something so magnificent so that they
would just have to see it.’ Akira Kurosawa
• Magnificence in human compassion and
Growing-up and Entertainment
• Relationships between younger and older men
• Relationships between the innocent and the
• A younger man learns humanistic truths with the
tutelage of an older man.
• SUGATA Sanshiro and YANO Shogoro in
Sugata Sanshiro
• The young gangster, MATSUOKA and his
alcoholic doctor, SANADA in Drunken Angel
Growing-up and Entertainment
• The young detective, MURAKAMI and
the senior detective, SATO in Stray Dog.
• WTANABE Kanbei, the experienced
warrior and the young samurai, Katsushiro,
who has yet to fight in a battlefield in
Seven Samurai.
• The compassionate doctor, NI’IDE and
the young and ambitious doctor
YASUMOTO in Red Beard.
Kurosawa Akira - maker of men’s films
Heroic men; male relationship and comradeship;
Little space for women; few female characters who
are as impressive as male counterparts.