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Akira Kurosawa and the Cannes Film Festival

Cannes film festival logoThe 60th Cannes Film Festival has now screened the first films in this year’s competition, and I though that just like we did a couple of months ago with the Academy Awards, it would be a good time to remind ourselves of Kurosawa’s successes in the Cannes Film Festival.

It may in fact come as a big surprise to many that Cannes was not kind to Kurosawa. Only two of his films were ever screened as part of the competition, with Kagemusha winning the director his only Golden Palm. And even that was a tie with another film called All That Jazz.

Here is the list:

1956: Record of a Living Being
SCREENED in competition

1980: Kagemusha
WON the Golden Palm (together with Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz)

Considering that two of Kurosawa’s films at least won Oscars (plus costumes from Ran won a third one), bashing Oscars for not really recognizing and promoting “real quality cinema” is perhaps cast in a somewhat new light. Or is it rather the other way around, with the eurocentricism of Cannes shining through even in the case of Kurosawa?

In fact, the most probable explanation has to do with the rules of Cannes, which dictate that a film sent for the competition must not have been shown outside the country of its origin, and that it must not have been part of any film festival previously. Kurosawa generally not being that concerned about the promotional machinery behind his movies, he probably (and this is just my own interpretation) didn’t feel the need to time the completion of his films to coincide with film festivals, even if winning, or just screening at Cannes would certainly have promoted his films in a way that might even have proved to help him finance more films towards the end of his career.

Kurosawa’s Ran, by the way, was actually supposed to open at Cannes, but with the post-production taking longer than expected, it was not ready for the festival. (Chris Maker’s “A.K.” documentary on the making of Ran was, however, screened there.)

Cannes’s failure to recognize Kurosawa’s films (whether self-induced or due to other reasons) is all the more apparent when one looks at the honours the director received at both Venice and Berlin. But I am getting ahead of myself here, as you will have to wait for more detailed information about those two festivals until they take place this year (or actually next year, in the case of Berlin).

Let me finally close this post by linking a little something I took a picture of in Cannes last summer.

And, by the way, what do you think of this year’s official selection?


Discussion

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Jeremy Quintanilla

As you mentioned, I dont think Kurosawa was all too concern about Cannes or any festival in general. Although screening in Cannes most likely would of elevated his career to important levels.

I think fault lies more on Kurosawa and/or Toho, for there lack of Cannes entries.

As for the current festival, few films do I know anything about, and the America films being screened there really have no business in that competition- there all rather lacking.

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