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Influence

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    green

    I recently developed an interest in the work of Kurosawa while doing a school research project on the influence of Asian cinema on Hollywood, and found him to be a highly influential director, and so decided to focus my research down on him.

    I was hoping that I could start a discussion on his influence, particularly on that of the Western genre. Also, I would be most obliged if you could direct me to any sites or books etc regarding him

    Thank you,

    Mark Green

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    Vili Maunula

    Hi Mark, and welcome to the group!

    What you propose here is a fascinating topic for discussion, although I must say that it is also a very wide topic. There are certain easy points to make when it comes to Kurosawa’s legacy, such as his influence on George Lucas (parts of Star Wars were inspired by The Hidden Fortress), or the way Sergio Leone ripped off Yojimbo in his A Fistful of Dollars.

    It is also easy to point out some instances of Kurosawa’s use of film techniques that influenced others, such as his “trademark” wipes (again, perhaps most famously also used by George Lucas) or his use of slow motion effects in Seven Samurai, which many would say helped to developed a new cinematic language for action films.

    But to go further than these somewhat superficial, quite often repeated points, is a different matter altogether. It would certainly be interesting to look deeper at the way Kurosawa influenced his contemporaries and those who followed him. What, for example, was the influence of his particular type of humanism? What about Kurosawa’s cinematic dynamism, the constant kinetic aesthetic present in his films? Or how much of an influence did Kurosawa’s style of mixing entertainment and socio-political commentary actually have, especially on the rise of the “box office hit culture” in the 1970s, which was spearheaded by such self-professed Kurosawa fans as Lucas, Coppola, Spielberg and Scorsese.

    Having said that, I feel that one would need a very good basic understanding of film and film history to be able to approach this topic properly, and I am not sure if I personally have that knowledge.

    Fortunately, there are some much wiser and more knowledgeable men and women than me. The books section of this website gives you a list of the English language Kurosawa books currently available, with short reviews from yours truly. It should be pretty much up-to-date now, as I just updated it a minute ago. 🙂

    By the way, from those books, perhaps the best look at Kurosawa’s legacy on Hollywood can be found in the last chapter of Stephen Prince’s The Warrior’s Camera.

    Another way to approach the topic would be to not look at Kurosawa’s influence as a whole, but rather concentrate on a smaller section of it that is easier to research and form an opinion on. You mention that you are particularly interested in Kurosawa’s influence on the Western genre, and that is in fact something that also I have been quite interested in.

    Last summer, when our Online Film Club discussed Yojimbo, we had two threads that pretty directly touched on this subject. One was a comparison of Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars, Last Man Standing and Django, while the other was a more direct question that I posed about Kurosawa’s influence on the revisionist western. Even if neither of these threads is an extremely in-depth look on the topic, you may well find something of interest in those threads. At least I did learn a lot from them.

    Next month, in January 2009, our Online Film Club moves on to discuss Seven Samurai, which is another film that has had a relatively direct influence on the Western genre. I am personally planning to look at The Magnificent Seven, among other films, and do something like what I did with Yojimbo and its remakes in the thread to which I linked above. You are more than welcome to stick with us, and join that particular discussion as well!

    Of course, nothing prevents us discussing the matter here and now. There are a couple of things to consider, though. One is that most of our regulars currently happen to be travelling around the world, so right now it is a little bit more quiet here than usual.

    The other thing is that I feel that it is easier to take a close reading of a particular film as your starting point (which means watching it a couple of times with fresh eyes), and start building the discussion from there. Otherwise, the discussion has a tendency to succumb to generalities, which in the end is usually of very little value.

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