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In Honor of the Centenary of Kurosawa’s Birth


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    Hi Friends,

    As you know, I’m at a university that serves an urban population-but a population that is largely regionally-bound, and attached to the fate of the auto industry. My students are urban, yet, oddly unsophisticated. Think Eminem-a local boy.

    So, getting together a mini-retrospective during next year’s International Week involves heavy lifting. I’m afraid we’ll put on a show, and nobody will come.

    I have already proposed an anime discussion panel with folks from the industry, the Japanese language faculty and then a screening of a film-I know that will draw, since I have mentioned before that most of our students end up as Japanese language majors after an initial interest in anime and manga.

    But, how to make the Kurosawa retrospective a success? I would be most beholden to you for any ideas or input.

    One of the things I considered was awarding Tatsuya Nakadai an honorary doctorate. But, that seems a huge and insurmountable obstacle. There’s simply no budget to fly him in and host him. But, wouldn’t it be cool if there was?



    Unsophisticated, maybe, but you don’t want Berkeley. 😛

    Unfortunately, I’ve haven’t any real suggestions, other then you need a hook. I dont have a clue how things are done, or what can be done. I would however, just broadcast the trailers of the likes of Sanjuro and Yojimbo on the college channel. Those trailers have the very styling that is copied by the whole unsophisticated, urbanized, hip-hop youth scene. But, perhaps, I’m out-dated, back in my day it was the whole Wu-Tang scene, and the ripping off of samurai and kung fu movies.

    Turn-out would be hard to judge in any university. Old foreign films appeal only to a small few. If you wanting sophistication and art appreciation, expect small crowds. If you mass appeal, you got to sell the stylization of what exist in the Sanjuros, Sword of Dooms, Samurai Rebellions. You need not be “sophisticated” to enjoy those. And too they fit along side anything anime.

    If all else fails, get The Nuge,The Motor City Madman,Uncle Ted, or just Ted Nugent. I’ll at least show up! And maybe he can talk about the “Jap Whack Tour” in the spirit of International Week. 🙂



    I wonder if it would help to screen Kurosawa movies with movies they begat, influenced, or which came from the same source. Such as pairing “Yojimbo” with “For a Few Dollars More”, “Seven Samurai” with “Magnificent Seven”, “The Lower Depths” with Renoir’s “Lower Depths”, “Throne of Blood” with “Macbeth” (there is a movie of “Macbeth”, isn’t there?), etc. Or maybe more remote influences – “Seven Samurai” with “Saving Private Ryan” – I can’t imagine the latter movie being made without the existence of a “Seven Samurai” to show warfare realistically.

    I don’t know if that helps but it’s something to think about.



    You mean “Yojimbo” and “A Fistful of Dollars”, though “For a Few Dollars More” is a lot better than its predecessor.


    Vili Maunula

    Coco, I have been thinking about this since you brought it up, but it’s a tough nut to crack.

    Have you contacted the AK100 people? They might have something to offer.

    Alternatively, how about asking Hori-Pro how much it costs to host the drawings exhibition that is currently circling the world (was in Paris, then Istanbul)? Get a few posters into the mix as well, and set up a competition to design a Kurosawa poster for a film that you screen. Audience chooses the winner.

    And don’t forget to hang some huge AkiraKurosawa.info banners everywhere! 😉



    I really appreciate the input, friends. Thanks. You know how you feel when you let an opportunity go by and later regret it? That’s what I am thinking about International Week and Kurosawa.

    Vili, a year out is still too late to do any gallery shows-they book a long time in advance. Of course, I did book a suite of rooms in the student center for another project: a student photo doumentary of our upcoming (at that time, returned) Mediterranean program. The suite is in lieu of the booked gallery. And, finally, we have no budget to procure anything…we have gorgeous facilities, and a fabulous new auditorium-so we can show films (for educational purposes, those in the library can be used) and we can have panels for discussion. We are already having a logo competition for International Week, of which the AK 100 commemorative would be only one bit…

    Am I being sour, lawless, when I think that the old Kurosawa/spaghetti western thing is boring? And, will our students in fall semester have the time to sit through two films?

    I’m tempted to think that Jeremy is probably right about “taste”. Great art can be popular art too, right? That was Kurosawa’s thing (and, as it turns out, some folks like Rubens and Raphael-not bad company, right?). So, maybe showing Yojimbo would do it. It may be modest, but could we have an introduction, the show the film? It was awesome when they showed it at the State Theatre in Ann Arbor. The audience ate it up!

    And, posters would be essential! Vili, and, although I think the AK100 folks are marketing guys, not necessarily “foundation” guys trying to promote art or culture, I will give them a buzz. Ya never know, right?



    Should you be screening his filmography, I definitely think introducing them to more “blockbuster” films from Kurosawa first would work wonders i.e. Seven Samurai / Yojimbo / Sanjuro and perhaps even Stray Dog / High and Low rather than a more slow paced drama such as Ikiru, The Idiot or even Ran.

    I know my introduction to Kurosawa was through Seven Samurai and I’ve been hooked since. Like Ozu, starting off with one of his longest and slowest pacing films (Tokyo Story), I told myself I’d never watch another one of his films. However, I did so, and in the process discovered Floating Weeds, Tokyo Twilight, Equinox Flower, Late Autumn, Early Spring and The End of Summer etc and he’s now one of my favourite directors. Point being, were I the average audience member and not an absolute lover of film, willing to give a director more than one chance, I may not have persevered and discovered the rest of his works. That’s why I think it’s of vital importance to strike up a good first note with your audience, perhaps playing a more crowd pleasing Kurosawa film to get them hooked, then reel them into the dramas.



    Thanks, Ryan, for your input. You’re most likely on the same wavelength as Jeremy, suggesting crowd-pleasers. And, as we all know, that doesn’t mean they are’t also really wonderful films! I’m imagining Yojimbo…it’s the right length, and can you imagine a pic of him looking over his shoulder in disgust…and a caption, something like “This dude is hard core”. I dunno, something about how cool he is.

    I’m re-reading the suggestions, and think that broadcasting the trailers on the college channel is an awesome idea, if it can be done. And, what about posters…I wonder what copyright issues are involved in my using images?

    And, I’m gonna check in with the AK100 folks. If I get a response, I’ll let you know.

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