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Scorsese and Kurosawa

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    lenatomoko

    Hi.

    I am a film studies student and doing an assignment on Kurosawa’s influence on Scorsese. I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t seen any of Kurosawa’s film and I don’t know where to start.

    Which movies should I watch to start with??

    Which Scorsese’s films do you think were influenced by Kurosawa?

    If there is any books or website, ariticles that you recommend, I really appreciate it.

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    Ugetsu

    Hi lenatomoko,

    There was a discussion here a few months ago that touched on this topic.

    The obvious film to start with is ‘Dreams‘ because Scorsese plays Van Gogh in that film!

    I would say that the film with the most direct influence on Scorsese would be High and Low. I kept thinking of that film when watching Taxi Driver, and to a lesser extent Goodfellas and Bringing Out the Dead. There is a new blu-ray version out in Region 1 which would be a great introduction to Kurosawa’s contemporary films for you (it is a fantastic thriller, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it hugely). To a lesser extent, I think The Bad Sleep Well and Stray Dog had an influence. I think Yojimbo also had a great influence, but maybe an indirect one – in other words, Yojimbo influenced many of the hot young directors of the ’60’s and ’70’s, especially when it came to filming action and violence – but frequently I think many directors who learned how to do it well did so via Leone and Pekinpah and others who studied Kurosawa closely.

    Its harder to put a finger on what Scorsese learned from Kurosawa. I would say its in editing – for me, what they both have in common is a very fluid and dynamic style, and both are particularly brilliant at merging camera movement and action with editing – in fact, I don’t think either have ever been surpassed. And since Kurosawa was ‘first’, I would assume Scorsese learned a lot from studying his films.

    I don’t think this is a subject (to my knowledge) which has had a lot of research, so I hope you keep using this site and let us know your conclusions! I’d certainly be very interested to know more.

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    Vili Maunula

    I think that Ugetsu’s answer above pretty much covers all the basics. Let me just add that Scorsese has apparently been working on the idea of a remake of High and Low since the early 1990s.

    As Ugetsu said, it would be great to hear what your conclusions are after you have watched some Kurosawa films and compared them to Scorsese’s work.

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    lenatomoko

    Thank you so much for all the advice. Sorry, I am only coming back here now. The assignment only just started but I posted this when I decided on the topic. Unfortunately I had to change the topic to a less focussed one and now it is Kurosawa’s influence on other auteurs.

    I watched Rashomon, just because it was available online, and I absolutely loved it! I was so inspired by the story and the camera work and to think that the movie was made in 1950 just blew my mind away.

    I’ve been having trouble with finding Kurosawa dvds that are not too expensive, (Why is Kurosawa dvds 3 times more expensive than a normal dvd?? ) but I managed to find RAN at a second hand shop and watched it. I didn’t enjoy it as much as Rashomon but I understood his chosen style and theme better, I think.

    I am now waiting for 7 samurai and the magnificent 7 to arrive so I can watch them.

    Any suggestions on where I can get dvds for cheeper? Or websites where I can watch them online??

    Once again, I really appreciate all the input.

    I am so glad that I chose to to study Kurosawa!!!

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    Ugetsu

    Hi Lena, nice to hear your feedback.

    There is list of available dvd’s in the information page here. Are you in the US or Europe (or elsewhere)? If in the US, you might be able to get some of the Criterion versions cheap if the Barnes & Noble sale is still going on (I ordered some three weeks ago and they still haven’t arrived 😥 )

    Its a pity that they are so expensive outside Asia – part of the expense I think is that companies like Criterion have had to invest a lot of money to do the very best quality restoration, although having said that, even the fairly mediocre BFI versions in Region 2 are expensive too. Its probably partly a reflection of the small sales to high cost of producing them, and partly simply a marketing strategy that knows that most purchasers of Kurosawa films are cinephiles who are willing to suck up a high price to get yet another version of a film from their favourite film maker. I don’t really know about cheap sources for dvd’s, except that you can get semi-official versions of questionable quality from some Hong Kong and other Asian websites. I would just point out that Christmas is coming, so maybe you can subtly suggest to someone what you’d like Santa to bring you 😉

    I would say that in most cases its worth investing in the better quality versions, simply because Kurosawa’s films were made for the big screen and (in my opinion) lose a great deal when watched as a poor quality transfer on a regular domestic screen. Ran in particular can only truly be appreciated on the big screen I think. I was luck enough to see Rashomon on the big screen after watching several times on dvd and there was no comparison, it was an amazing experience. I’ve found the Criterion versions to be outstanding – its not an exaggeration to say that sometimes its like discovering a whole new film to see one of their versions when previously you’ve only seen cruder transfers.

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    Ugetsu

    Oh, I just noticed that you said you were now writing about ‘other auteurs’. I’d recommend D.P Martinez book on ‘Remaking Kurosawa‘, it provides a great and very readable overview of some of the various films directly influenced by Kurosawa. Its ridiculously expensive for such a small book, but I assume you can get it through your library.

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    Vili Maunula

    I would definitely stay away from cheap Asian prints and concentrate on the Criterion, BFI and Madman releases, depending on what part of the world you are from. As Ugetsu mentioned, Barnes & Noble currently have a sale going with Criterion titles 50% off list price.

    As for watching online, I think Hulu and iTunes currently carry Criterion Kurosawa. If you are in the US, Netflix might also help, although I think that they no longer stream Criterion titles, so you would essentially need to use their DVD services. In fact, I would imagine that your local DVD rental might also have the Criterion discs available.

    Your new topic seems really wide. In addition to the book by Martinez that Ugetsu mentioned, the last chapter of Stephen Prince’s Warrior’s Camera could be a good starting point, as it discusses Kurosawa’s legacy and influence on other (especially American) film makers.

    Good luck, enjoy the research process, and drop us updates every now and then! Feel free to bounce ideas off us, if you wish to.

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    dylanexpert

    Lena,

    You might want to stop by the Wikipedia page that both Vili and I worked on. There is a section about Kurosawa’s influence on other filmmakers with some interesting quotes. For example, Bergman called his own film, The Virgin Spring (1960), “a lousy imitation of Kurosawa” and recalled that he was so influenced by Japanese cinema at the time that “I was almost a samurai myself.”

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    dylanexpert

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