From Ran to Madadayo, Akira Kurosawa set new boundaries for world cinema, producing a string of masterpieces unrivaled in motion picture history. In the first major documentary to be made since his death in 1998, Kurosawa... more »'s family and colleagues are joined by critics from Japan and America to produce a comprehensive assessment of his achievement. Featuring clips from Kurosawa's greatest films: Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, Kagemusha, Ran, Dreams, and Madadayo. Includes exclusive interviews with James Coburn and Clint Eastwood along with production manager Teruyo Nogami, actresses Machiko Kyo and Isuzu Yamada, actor Tatsuya Nakadai, director Kon Ichikawa, and more. 115 minutes.« less
An insightful documentary about my favorite film director
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 04/06/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Akira Kurosawa directed my favorite film, "Shichinin no samurai." When I was teaching Honors World Literature I would show the film to my students in between their reading of Homer's "Iliad" and Cervantes's "Don Quixote" as part of a trilogy on the nature of heroism. Whenever I would teach a course on movies I would screen "Rashomon," and if I taught "King Lear" to a class they would see "Ran." If I had ever gotten around to teaching "MacBeth" I would have shown them "Throne of Blood." Consequently, I have taken advantage of any and all opportunities to advance the cinematic gospel of Akira Kurosawa. This 2001 documentary about "Kurosawa" combines a chronological look at the director's life offering biographical insights into his films with some critical explications of his work. The latter is relatively limited and while I would have liked to have seen more cinematic analysis we do have a whole series of Criterion Edition DVDs of Kurosawa's film with superb commentary tracks by knowledgeable film critics. There are also almost 100 minutes of additional filmed interviews provided, arranged thematically. What this documentary offers that uniquely fills in the gap in any such home film appreciation course are some direct comparisons of scenes from Kurosawa films and their American versions (e.g., "Yojimbo" and "A Fistful of Dollars"). Similarly, there are some juxtapositions of key scenes from Kurosawa films with images from his life as well as the paintings he did while preparing for film projects.
The documentary combines footage from most of Kurosawa's films and interviews with key colleagues such as screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto and actor Tatsuya Nakadai, as well as interviews with Kurosawa himself and excerpts from his autobiography (read by Paul Scofield). At two hours in length the documentary has to neglect some popular ("The Hidden Fortress") and critically acclaimed ("Stray Dog") films. However, I would not be surprised if for every Kurosawa film you note is missing you will discover a hitherto unknown Kurosawa film that you can add to your list of what to see next (somehow I have missed out on "Red Beard" to this point in my life). As long as you have seen at least a couple of Kurosawa's films you should be able to find this documentary informative and insightful. Even those who consider themselves knowledgeable about his career and his films should this documentary and its bonus interviews to be of more than passing interest."
The story of a film genius
ereinion | CA. United States | 03/29/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this on PBS' Great Performances. This documentary is about film genius Akira Kurosawa. The documentary charts Akira Kurosawa's early life in pre-WWII Japan to the end of his life. Kurosawa brought Japanese cinema to a world wide audience. I recommend this DVD for anyone who is a Akira Kurosawa fan. Plus the DVD has 100 minutes of bonus interview footage not seen on the PBS program and Kurosawa filmography."
A great documentary piece
Victor Wong | Ottawa, Ontario Canada | 05/13/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Casual fans who have never seen a Kurosawa picture should have a look at this well-shot, well-organized DVD. This documentary covers the whole of Kurosawa's life, from his childhood experiences of a Tokyo earthquake to his final days after his last film, Madadayo.Die-hard Kurosawa fans will also be pleased because the documentary looks at some of the lesser-known pictures such as the early No Regrets for our Youth and the classic Ikiru, and traces Kurosawa's early flashes of genius and his development as a storyteller. (They would be less pleased that the film avoids some of the more controversial points of his career, such as the Yojimbo-Fistful of Dollars plagiarism suit.)It's somewhat disappointing that Westerners who chose to discuss Kurosawa were actors (James Coburn and Clint Eastwood) who appeared in Kurosawa-inspired films, as opposed to directors such as George Lucas and Francis Coppola. However, this deficiency is made up for by the inclusion of Kurosawa scholar Donald Richie.There are Easter eggs in this DVD, consisting of several commercials that Kurosawa made for Suntory whisky during the 1970s. Even in these ads, a film fan can see the Kurosawa touch at work."
A nostaligic, brief glimpse of a genius
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 02/21/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Kurosawa" is a well-produced, rather easy going documentary of a master film maker. It reads like a fan letter to Kurosawa, each moment heaping praise on the director, while leading the viewer through a biographical timeline of his life. An enjoyable piece to watch.That being said, I was disappointed in the depth of the documentary. There is little discussion of Kurosawa's impact on film, his innovations and, most importantly, what he was trying to achieve with his films and his success in achieving that goal. Kurosawa was a film maker with a definitive focus, seeking no less than to change the world for the better using films as his medium. This message is never really mentioned, which surprised me as it is so crucial to understanding his films. Few, if any, of his films are examined critically and little insight is gained as to why Kurosawa is such an important artist of the 20th century.Even with its lack of depth, "Kurosawa" makes for a fine, nostalgic documentary. Clips of Kurosawa at work on his films are enjoyable, as is the reunion of the "Roshomon" workers and the interviews with a few former Kurosawa-film beauties. The presentation of artifacts, such as the Noh mask used for "Throne of Blood" and the Ryokan in Kyoto where Kurosawa wrote his screen plays, adds a human element to the piece.The DVD adds to the missing depth with a good length of interviews of varying interests, each focusing on personal reminiscences of Kurosawa. The Suntory whisky easter eggs are quite charming, and a nice touch. This is why we have DVDs.Should have been longer, should have been deeper, but still good."
Great documentary on a great director
Matthew Phillips | Knoxville, Tennessee United States | 04/22/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"PBS did an outstanding job in putting this documentary together. It covers his entire life and career and includes scenes from some of his lesser known and much more difficult to find films. The documentary includes many interview pieces with Kurosawa himself which gives you some added insight into what the man was really like. Also, there are comments from noted Japanese film historian Donald Richie. As a Kurosawa fan watching this on PBS when it aired, the hour and forty five minutes seemed like about half an hour. It is an excellent documentary about perhaps the greatest director of the twentieth century."