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Remembering Kurosawa on the Tenth Anniversary of His Passing

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    cocoskyavitch

    I’m not in love.

    I’m not much of a fan of Japan as an idea or a place. I don’t mean to say that I am immune to its charms, or uninterested in its history, culture of people…it’s just that I am not much swayed by the romantic notion of Japan. Its “otherness” or exotic appeal isn’t that interesting to me.

    I am in love.

    What does interest me about Japan is its art and artists. Its filmmakers, writers, printmakers, ceramicists-these things interest me-and they interest me in the order given. I dare say the quality, the compelling beauty and truth I’ve found in the pages of a Kawabata novel, or in the fine cuts of a Sharaku woodblock are standards equivalent to the very highest products of humanity-regardless of country of origin. Said differently-the country of origin of great art is the human spirit.

    On the tenth anniversary

    of the passing from this realm to another of one of the greatest artists of the last millenium, Akira Kurosawa, I thought about the man’s contributions and gifts to humanity.

    I am still astonished and humbled at his example. Can there be such depth and breadth and nuance to his thought? Can such skill in the service of his vision be possible? Can so much human compassion and love exist in a filmmaker?

    The lover invests the beloved with all the charms and perfections the lover admires. That’s true enough. Can we love with our eyes wide open, like Kurosawa and love without illusion?

    I think maybe, yes. I can think of his boring lectures caught on Criterion extras…those long, cigarette-perfumed rehashings of furrows well-plowed before. Kurosawa’s watery, weak eyes protected by sunglasses, his chair, and his pedestrian pullover-was one of them a sunny yellow in one interview? I think it was. I can see the man straining one’s patience to the limits-straining my patience, when I am the one who is willing to fall to the master’s feet. This is also a part of Kurosawa’s humanity, and a dictate of his art. By demanding the patience of his audience he frees that interior mechanism within him that points to magnetic north-that hunter of truth of human meaning is let loose-and his audience is spared slavery.

    So, while celebrating Kurosawa’s great gifts to us of complex, nuanced colors (amidst color so potent it acts as an agent of change) of the human condition, and celebrating the man himself, we are able to say:

    It is not the surgeon, it is the surgeon’s skill, it is the surgeon. An elliptical appreciation of an artist of the highest calibre who gives humanity the greatest gift possible-itself seen reborn in art.

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    Jon Hooper

    Excellent piece of writing, coco. Some of your language there is simply beautiful. I especially like “By demanding the patience of his audience he frees that interior mechanism within him that points to magnetic north-that hunter of truth of human meaning is let loose-and his audience is spared slavery.”

    For me, it was initially the exoticness that was an attraction, but that faded as time went by. Also, as a former student of medieval culture, I was thrilled to see, in Throne of Blood and Seven Samurai especially, a depiction of a feudal world that didn’t look silly. Almost all the western films set in the middle ages I’d seen up to that point resembled Monty Python’s Holy Grail. But in Kurosawa, and no less in Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev, here was a depiction of those times that seemed completely realistic.

    “Said differently-the country of origin of great art is the human spirit.” Beautifully put. In “Stephen Hero,” Joyce wrote: “you must first have a nation before you have an art.” But it is also true that the artist has no country; that his country is the whole world.

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    Ugetsu

    Agreed… fantastic post, coco. And thanks for reminding us of the anniversary.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Thanks, Jon, Ugetsu. I actually feel really bad that I don’t know how to communicate warm remembrance to Kurosawa’s family. I wish we could have figured out something to do as a group…just didn’t have a clue as to how to go about it.

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