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Akira Kurosawa (or the Joy of Cultural Appropriation.)

Jun 4, 2016

Akira Kurosawa behind the camera. A condemned thief is rescued from the gallows to impersonate a powerful warlord in 20th Century-Fox's "Kagemusha," an epic saga of feudal conflict in medieval Japan, directed by Japan's most celebrated filmmaker, Akira Kurosawa.Ran 110829450

The Japanese Filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998) is widely considered to be one of the world’s greatest directors. Most lists of great directors have Kurosawa in the top ten and his influence on cinema has been felt all over the world.  His movie the Seven Samurai (1954) was remade into the western classic the Magnificent Seven (1960) with Yule Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, and Charles Coburn.  Kurosawa’s movie the Hidden Fortress (1958) was the inspiration for Star Wars (1977).  C3PO and R2D2 are characters based on Japanese peasants Tahei and Matashichi where C3PO is the scared clumsy comic relief peasant and R2D2 is the plucky determined common sense peasant that gets things done.  His movie Rashomon (1950) was such an influential film that it has now become a noun.  A Rashomon is a situation where different witnesses have conflicting and contradictory versions of the same event.

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Kurosawa was a huge fan of American Cinema. John Ford and American Westerns in particular were major influences on his work so it is no wonder that many of his film were remade as Westerns.  Kurosawa was also a fan of Shakespeare and two of his films Throne of Blood (1957) and Ran (1985) were based on Shakespeare plays.  Throne of Blood is Macbeth and Ran is King Lear.  Ran is a cinematic masterpiece and a must see movie for any cinema buff.

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American audiences are most familiar with Kurosawa’s Samurai themed films but Kurosawa was also influenced by Hollywood’s Hard Boiled/Film Noir and several of his early films were Japanese Gangster movies. The Glass Key (1942), the filmed version of the Dashiell Hammett novel staring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, was the inspiration for Kurosawa’s movie Yojimbo (1961).  Yojimbo then inspired the Sergio Leone ‘Spaghetti Western’ A Fistful of Dollars (1964) which was remade into the Bruce Willis feature Last Man Standing (1996).  So a Hard Boiled Film Noir Classic became a Kurosawa Samurai Classic became a Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Western classic which became a Hard-boiled New Noir gangster movie starring Bruce Willis.  The joys of cultural appropriation.