I first came to know Kurosawa’s work back in college. It was after seeing a couple of his films that I really began to have a deep appreciation for the mans work. I believe it was “Seven Samurai” which was the film that made me really sent me into overload with Kurosawa’s films. When a friend and I went to a 4 hour screening of the new
re-mastered “Seven Samurai” I finally got to see what an epic film it really was, and how masterful Kurosawa was. From that point I was obsessed in seeing as much of Kurosawa’s films as I could. I grew up in New York city, and back in the day before even video tape became pervasive there was the Film Form, the Paris, or the Village East where you could see many older films from such filmmakers as Kurosawa. Take a look at this short sequence in “Seven Samurai”. The composition is amazing, and the action is startling. I heard that the effect of the blood was an accident and that Kurosawa left it in. A happy accident, but one that makes the scene so much more powerful and visceral.
In the next clip you can see how Kurosawa edits another fight scene. Notice the absence of music to heighten emotions in the viewer. Kurosawa was famous for using the slow motion death, but when he used slow-motion it was to let the audience really feel the sting of the finality of the last blow. The audience feels it and not by forcing it on us through music, but in silence. Each death in Kurosawa’s films is one of finality. Bad guy or good guy it did not matter. It is this that makes Kurosawa’s films a unique viewing experience.
These are only two examples of what I call the Kurosawa effect. Kurosawa used the visual to his benefit, and silence sometimes was much louder then any music he could come up with. That’s the problem with today’s media. It feels like filmmakers need to telegraph it’s emotions to their audiences. Take a look at any TV show or film. The filmmaker has so much contempt for the audience he or she feels that they need to force the emotion on us. Kurosawa never did that. He had too much respect, and he had a command of the visual that elicited strong emotions in his audience. That’s what I took away from his films, and he that’s why I became obsessed in seeing all of his films.
And if you are thinking Kurosawa did only epics in a grand scale you would be wrong. His films such as “Dreams“, “Ikiru, and “One Wonderful Sunday” are examples of his masterful technique. I encourage all to seek them out and learn from a truly gifted filmmaker.
I feel one entry is not enough for Kurosawa, so I will probably do a second part where I try and delve a bit deeper into his technique, and his other work. Till then check out some other blogs that go in-depth of Kurosawa’s technique. The one below is one that is exceptional in explaining Kurosawa’s editing technique. Lewis Michael Bond is exceptional in his analysis of various types of films, and he does a fantastic job here with Kurosawa. I encourage anyone who is a serious cinephile to go watch his videos. You won’t be disappointed. Mr. Bond also has a Patreon site if you would like to support his Cinema Cartography.