It was exactly 25 years ago today, on the 26th of March 1990, that Akira Kurosawa was given the honorary Academy Award “for cinematic accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained worldwide audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world”.
The award was handed to Kurosawa at the 62nd Academy Awards by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, both of whom had worked with Kurosawa in the past decade and who were undoubtedly instrumental in the Academy honouring Kurosawa with their award. In his brief acceptance speech, the filmmaker famously pondered whether the award was deserved and looked forward to continuing with his career: “I’m a little worried because I don’t feel that I understand cinema yet. I really don’t feel that I have yet grasped the essence of cinema. Cinema is a marvellous thing, but to grasp its true essence is very, very difficult. But what I promise you is that from now on I will work as hard as I can at making movies, and maybe by following this path I will achieve an understanding of the true essence of cinema and earn this award.”
You can watch a seven-minute clip of the event below, including a happy birthday song to the director who had only three days earlier turned 80 years old.
Most probably for copyright reasons, this official video misses a four-minute montage of Kurosawa’s work which was shown at the ceremony. You can find an unedited version of the event also on YouTube, although the video quality is worse. You can see it below, with the montage video sequence starting at around 40 seconds into the clip.
The montage is interesting as it almost exclusively concentrates on Kurosawa’s period films. Additionally, it attributes the often repeated quote “In a mad world, only the mad are sane” to Kurosawa, while it should more appropriately be attributed to one of his characters, Kyoami in Ran.
The award was a wonderful way for Hollywood to celebrate Kurosawa’s career and his influence on cinema. It is also great to see in the video how much this recognition clearly meant for Kurosawa.