6. Akira Kurosawa
SEVEN SAMURAI, RAN, YOJIMBO, HIDDEN FORTRESS
The 30 films Kurosawa made in just under 60 years have influenced everyone from Lucas and Spielberg to Tarantino and Lasseter. You know it’s a Kurosawa film if it’s a mix of bold action, traditional Japanese themes, and classic Hollywood style. With his themes involving a heroic champion, nature, and the cycle of violence, it’s no coincidence that a number of his films (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo) were remade as classic Hollywood westerns, or that Kurosawa’s hero was legendary American director John Ford. His style also included the axial cut, the wipe (used throughout the Star Wars films), and cutting on motion. Known for being a “hands-on” director, he was involved in every aspect of the filmmaking process, co-writing scripts, painting full storyboards, shooting, editing, and even getting involved with the score. To quote Kurosawa, “Unless you know every aspect and phase of the film-production process, you can’t be a movie director. A movie director is like a front-line commanding officer. He needs a thorough knowledge of every branch of the service, and if he doesn’t command each division, he cannot command the whole.” To aid this immersive filmmaking experience he created a stable of technicians, crew and actors, also known as the “Kurosawa-gumi” or “Kurosawa Group.” One of the highest profile members of this group was actor Toshirō Mifune who made his debut in Kurosawa’s critically acclaimed 1948 film Drunken Angel. They would go on to collaborate on another 15 films including Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo.
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