I’ve seen many more Ichikawa, Imamura and Oshima films than I’ve currently got rated, but I just don’t remember them all. I will get around to doing write-ups on all of them in due time, so hold your horses. I also intend on putting up an essay on the wonderful Mikio Naruse at some point this year.
Thriving on a riff!
Notes on the Japanese directors who didn’t make the Masters/Majors cut and whatnot.
Akira Kurosawa is the elephant in the room here. For nearly sixty years he has been the most recognizable and revered Japanese film director. His dynamic series of films starring the charismatic Toshiro Mifuno influenced the likes of Spielberg, Lucas, and Leone and spawned countless samurai epics in the 1960s. Yet, as much as I’ve always wanted to drink the Kool-Aid I’ve found Kurosawa lacking the language and universality which separates the talented from the sublime.
Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo and The Bad Sleep Well are all wonderful works of cinema and go far in supporting the argument that Kurosawa is indeed a master filmmaker. At the same time, some of his more personal films like Ikiru, I Live in Fear and Red Beard are painfully overwrought. They certainly lack the sincerity and grace of similar earnest efforts by Mizoguchi and Ozu.
Kurosawa had a wobbly a filmic syntax; he often held takes too long and missed beats. This wasn’t a huge issue in his films with Mifune because the actor’s immense personality helped pave over many rough patches. Kurosawa’s post-Mifune projects continued to be big and bold but the driving force was gone and the wind was sucked out of his sails.