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Kurosawa Dissertation

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    littlebigsis

    hi all,

    you have no idea how pleased i am to find a forum solely dedicated to Kurosawa :mrgreen:

    i’m currently attempting to write a dissertation about the films of Kurosawa in particular how he approaches tradition/modern, east/west, history/contemporary.

    any suggestions as to what films best demonstrate this and any good books/websites i should read to find out more either about the above or about Kurosawa’s films or influences in general?

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    Vili Maunula

    Welcome to the group, littlebigsis!

    That is a fairly large topic you are tackling, good luck! You can find on this website a list of English language books on Kurosawa’s works. I think that all except for Waiting on the Weather and Complete Drawings are more or less directly relevant to what you are writing, but if I had to pick just two it would be the books of Prince and Yoshimoto, who I think go deeper into these topics than do the others.

    Perhaps on some level relevant to your topic is also the forthcoming book Remaking Kurosawa, which should be out at the end of May.

    There are a few often repeated notions that you will be encountering in various discussions of Kurosawa’s work, especially considering the topics that you are researching. These include such ideas as him being the “most western of the Japanese directors”, or “the samurai film maker”, or “openly loving/hostile towards the west in his films”. My advice is not to take any of these claims at face value, and always try to see his works as more than a series of simple black and white statements.

    As for specific films, it could be (and has been) argued that the works where the tradition/modern divide is most pronounced is Kurosawa’s immediate post-war films (Drunken Angel and Stray Dog may be good starting points, but just about everything from that period is quite relevant). These films are also dealing with the rapid westernisation of Japan, so they may be a good starting point for exploring the east/west divide.

    As for the history/contemporary topic, I cannot quite think of a single film (perhaps someone else can?), and would therefore just rather suggest comparing his contemporary and historical films. In many ways they are very similar in their underlying topics and presentation, but it could well be argued that a historical setting always gave Kurosawa more of a blank canvas on which to build.

    I would also suggest that you browse through the old discussions on this website. Some of the topics that you raise have come up in our discussions, and you may find useful pointers there.

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    littlebigsis

    awesome. thanks for the links and info i’ll be sure to check out those other discussions as well. i’ve got a book by prince already but i’ll definitely have a look for Yoshimoto and the Remaking Kurosawa book.

    i’ve recently just purchased a dvd box set of Kurosawa’s films so hopefully that will arrive quickly and i can check out the films you mentioned.

    I’m hoping that as i do more research the topic area may shrink somewhat as i narrow down just exactly what i will talk about, i was hoping that by starting off quite broad i could find something that really grabbed my interest and i then wouldn’t mind writing 10,000 words or more on it. 🙂 As it it i’m writing the proposal at the mo and that’s making me explore all sorts of different avenues of possibilities, so hopefully by the end of it i will know exactly what i’m doing. 😛

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    Vili Maunula

    I hope that the box that you bought is not one of those Chinese releases, as the subtitles on most of the films there makes proper understanding the films nearly impossible. 😕

    Again, good luck with the project, and do let us know if we can help at any point!

    Back when I wrote my MA dissertation, it was four days before handing in the thing when it suddenly dawned on me what I really wanted to be saying. What followed was a frantic weekend of editing and adding to the text, turning a 90-page dissertation into a 150-page monster, and then trimming it back down to a somewhat more reasonable 110 pages. Needless to say, the end product had relatively little to do with the original proposal — although that would have been the case even without the last weekend panic attack! 😆

    But at least in my case, it seems that I didn’t exactly know what I was doing until the very end. Something similar actually happened to me also with the two theses that I wrote for my other degrees — I guess some people work better under pressure while I, it sometimes seems, work only under pressure. 😛

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    Ugetsu

    I’d suggest that for history/contemporary, Yojimbo would be an example – I’ve always thought of it as a contemporary film that happens to have been set in the 19th Century. The ‘hero’ is a very contemporary type of anti-hero, and the satirical target was very much contemporary Japan.

    You could also argue, I suppose, that Rashomon was intended as a very modern philosophical inquiry using a historical setting.

    For reading, I would strongly recommend Joan Mellon’s book on ‘Seven Samurai’ (BFI series). Although she is very much a fan and doesn’t try to hide it (she is very disparaging about Kurosawa’s detractors), I found her approach to the film refreshing and open minded.

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    Ryan

    I’m perhaps very biased, but I definitely believe that Stray Dog is one of Kurosawa’s most important pictures in that it displays documentary footage of postwar Tokyo (I believe no other Kurosawa film can boast this) that lasts almost ten minutes. Therefore I feel this film would be suited very much to your history / contemporary topic. Kurosawa draws parallels between contemporary and past Japan literally and visually. The dialogue itself, that Kurosawa co-wrote, has Takeshi Shimura representing the elder generation of Japanese whilst Mifune represents the current postwar generation.

    In essence, I think the very message of the film was not only an important theme at the time but also just as important today as it was then; today in terms of historical significance, in postwar Japan a realistic drama with principles of didacticism.

    But then, as I say, I’m biased as I do love Stray Dog very much. Thus, perhaps I’m overstating its importance as a film.

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    littlebigsis

    thanks for the suggestions, the dissertation proposal went in today so glad that part of its over now i can actually get down to some serious research 😆

    i’m definitely going to track down a copy of Mellon’s ‘Seven Samurai’, i’ve had a number of people suggest this book, so that’s next on the to buy list.

    looking forward to watching the rest of his films as well, haven’t had the time recently but i plan on remedying that as soon as my remaining assignments are handed in.

    again thanks for all the help, what would i do without you guys 😳

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    littlebigsis

    hey guys bin a while since i posted but ive been so busy at uni its been a nightmare 😡 The dissertation proposal has now been thinned out a bit the main focus is currently the demonstration of orrientalism and occidentalism in Kurosawas films. I’ve got a couple of books and films to watch as research but i was just wondering if any of u guys have any thoughts about the topic. 🙂

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    Ugetsu

    Thats a pretty broad topic. One book I’d recommend is Joan Mellon on Seven Samurai (part of the BFI series on film classics). She has a good discussion about what she sees as misinterpretations by both western and Japanese critics, especially with regard to the alleged influence of westerns on Kurosawa.

    I think if you flick through the discussions here you’ll see there is pretty much a consensus among everyone that the ‘western’ aspects of Kurosawas work has been greatly exaggerated. He was deeply Japanese in almost all respects, including his occasional tendency to take ideas from western film makers.

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    littlebigsis

    Yeah, I’ve got that book but I have yet to read it, I’m currently reading The Warrior’s Camera, but Seven Samurai will probably be the next one I read. Anyway thanks for the info it’s good to know I’m on the right path at least. 😆

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    Vili Maunula

    Did you ever get your hands on Yoshimoto’s book? That’s the one I would start with when dealing with eastern and western themes in Kurosawa’s work.

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    littlebigsis

    yeah i managed to borrow it from my unis library, was the last copy as well 😛 i shall have to knuckle down and start reading more i think.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Hey, littlebigsis, good luck in yor studies. I don’t know if this is the way it works for you-but, when I research anything out of my love for it, I come to interesting (at least, interesting to me) conclusions, and find ever more questions…it becomes a kind of lovely encounter. But, when I “have” to do research, it’s a lot less fun.

    I mention that because you say that you must “knuckle down” and read more. I remember one Christmas holiday spreading out Yoshimoto, Goodman and Prince and Audie Bock and Mellon and Richie on the bed, and going back and forth between them, looking at specific moments in the timeline, and specific films, and I even kept a notebook on all of my impressions!

    But when I “have” to do research (for example, I need to look at Vietnamese art pretty soon, and work on a coursepack for an upcoming study abroad program) I really drag my feet!!!!

    I dunno why it is that way-must be something about a donkey-ish human nature.

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    littlebigsis

    Yeah I know what you mean cocoskyavitch I seem to be dragging my feet a bit when it comes to making myself study anything. Every so often though my interest is peaked in something I’ve been thinking about in relation to my dissertation and I jump back into working on it, I seem to struggle a bit if I’m lacking that burst of curiosity.

    Mostly though it’s just finding the time (or should I say needing to make time) to read and watch till my hearts content, at the moment I’m involved in making several short films and as a result my time for research is considerably less than it was a few weeks ago.

    I am making headway though, mainly watching the films and making notes on what I’ve watched, rather than reading the books, but I’ll have to try jumping back and forth between the books like you did, it will probably make it seem like a lot less work than simply reading chapter after chapter for hours on end.

    I’d be interested in hearing some of the conclusions you reached or the impressions you noted down, that is if you fancy sharing them. Thanks for the tip 😛

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    cocoskyavitch

    Gosh, littlebigsis, I completely understand where you are at. In fact, there seem to be two big strands in life: the doing and the researching, or what was called in the Renaissance the Active and the contemplative life. I do think we have two strands of it in our nature, but, many of us have one strand more developed. The action element cannot be minimized in importance!

    I actually did a whole series of notes on Kurosawa and have a file called “My book reports on Kurosawa or Never Mind the Bullocks”. I have a feeling it’s quite stupid, actually, so I wouldn’t bother anyone here. For my own edification, though, it might be interesting to go back and read what I though some years ago!

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    littlebigsis

    Yeah I definitely know what you’re saying, it sometimes seems that although I’m researching I’m never going to finish in time for the deadline. The best I can hope to do is break it down into smaller chunks and write as much as possible.

    Sounds good that you’ve still got all your old notes, should make for some interesting reading. 🙂

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    alanhuttan

    Writing dissertation is not a simple task. Need expertise knowledge and idea for writing dissertation. I have seen many students are consulting with online dissertation writing services for writing dissertation. When I want to order my essay or dissertation, I looking for dissertation or essay writing reviews, it will be more helpful to find a legit essay writing services…

    Edit by moderator (Vili): Please do not post links to essay writing services on this forum. They have no place here. Or indeed anywhere, in my opinion. This may be a subjective view, but it is a view I feel strongly about, and it is also why I removed your earlier post. Thanks for your understanding.

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