Akira Kurasawa was born 102 years ago in Tokyo. Unquestionably the most famous Japanese film director in the West, he is revered not only for so many fine films, an incredible number of which are masterpieces or near-masterpieces, but also for putting Japanese cinema on the world stage. This occurred when Rashomon, which had been released in 1950, won the Golden Lion Award at the 1951 Venice Film Festival. Kurosawa himself was also awarded the Italian Film Critics Award at that same festival.
Still, I believe that the single film with which his name is most closely associated is Seven Samurai (1954). For me it is a work of cinematic perfection: there's not the single, slightest thing about it that could be improved upon.
|Kurosawa (front center) with the cast and crew of The Lower Depths (1957)|
During his lifetime Kurosawa directed some 31 films. For me his towering presence in world cinema is most succinctly embodied in the fact that, as far as I can tell, he has more films in the Criterion Collection than any other director. The Criterion offerings include the massive box set AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa. If you don't already own many of his films on DVD, this might be a perfect purchase, though it requires the outlay of a considerable amount of money at one time. It includes four of his earliest films: Sanshiro Sugata (1943), The Most Beautiful (1944), Sanshiro Sugata Part Two (1945), and The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail ((1945). These four films also became available in a box set from Criterion entitled Eclipse Series 23: The First Films of Akira Kurosawa. Another box set that was released earlier is Eclipse Series 7: Postwar Kurosawa, a collection of five "lesser" films spanning 1946 - 1955.
Though he never received an Oscar as a director, in 1990 he received an honorary Oscar for his achievements in film, both in terms of the audiences he reached and the filmmakers he influenced. Two of his films Dersu Uzala (1975) and Ran (1985) were awarded Oscars as best foreign films. All told he won 61 award and was nominated for another 17.
All praise and thanks to one of the world's greatest movie directors. His contributions will last in the memories of film lovers forever.