Welcome to Akira Kurosawa info!  Log in or Register?

Tadao Sato interview

  •   link

    Vili Maunula

    The Japan Times has a nice and lengthy article and interview with Tadao Sato, one of Japan’s best known film critics. It’s a shame that his works have not been translated more widely. His books and essays on Kurosawa, for instance, are often referenced by Western critics. Richie called Sato “Japan’s single finest film critic”.

      link

    Ugetsu

    Interesting interview. I think I started off with a low opinion of Sato because I only came across him when other writers would mention him to disagree with him – but I suppose this is what happens when someone becomes pre-eminent in their field, people feel they have to address them specifically when they disagree. The only thing I’ve read from him is a few essays – his one on Rashomon in the Rudgers book is very interesting.

    I also like his comments on Zen – I always stop reading something when I see the words ‘Zen’ and ‘Ozu’ together*, its a sure sign of someone who hasn’t a clue what they are talking about but trying to sound insightful.

    *also: ‘Kurosawa’ and ‘Western’.

      link

    lawless

    Ugetsu – To be fair, part of the problem is that Zen is shorthand for a certain form of aesthetics, whereas Jodo Shinshu (Pure Land Buddhism), which he rightfully points out is even more popular, doesn’t have the same kind of aesthetic association.

    I know you have a bee in your bonnet about Kurosawa and Western! I kept out of the discussion on the other thread because it was basically over and because my views are somewhat different than everyone else’s, with the possible exception of Vili, but it boils down to this:

    Kurosawa’s no less Japanese than Ozu or Mizoguchi, but he’s more open to other influences, most, if not all of which, are Western ones, and those influences show in his movies. These influences give his work a dynamism Ozu and Mizoguchi’s don’t have, and make his work more accessible to Western viewers. The problem is when he’s labeled, dismissed, or trivialized as merely Western, as if that were all that was necessary to explain him.

      link

    Vili Maunula

    lawless: To be fair, part of the problem is that Zen is shorthand for a certain form of aesthetics

    That’s a good point. It’s a bit like people talking about “ufos” when they really mean extraterrestrial spacecraft or even extraterrestrial life supposedly visiting us. Or how many talk about “languages” when they really mean writing systems. Both of which (and many others) drive me absolutely nuts, but once you keep these connotations in mind, at least these discussions will make some sense to you.

    Where this becomes problematic, however, is when these different connotations mistakenly become fused into one. With zen, for instance, it may be first identified as an aesthetic quality of a film, and then in the course of the discussion suddenly acquires religious connotations as well, with the writer making the leap from “zen aesthetics” (whatever that really means) to “Zen Buddhism”, or even worse, “Japanese Buddhism” or “Japanese culture”. And this actually seems like quite a common mistake.

    lawless: Kurosawa’s no less Japanese than Ozu or Mizoguchi, but he’s more open to other influences, most, if not all of which, are Western ones, and those influences show in his movies. These influences give his work a dynamism Ozu and Mizoguchi’s don’t have, and make his work more accessible to Western viewers. The problem is when he’s labeled, dismissed, or trivialized as merely Western, as if that were all that was necessary to explain him.

    I think that this is quite an accurate observation.

    As far as I understand it, Mizoguchi and in particular Ozu were actually big fans of foreign films. But if they appropriated what they saw in those films into their own work, they did not do it quite as straightforwardly as Kurosawa tended to do. I don’t know enough about Mizoguchi or Ozu to offer more than speculation, but I wonder if they perhaps were more concerned about the dilemma of creating an overall style of film making suitable for Japanese subjects, something that Sato mentions in the interview, while Kurosawa was perhaps more interested in the question of what would work for the purposes of the particular film or scene that he was filming.

      link

    lawless

    Vlil said:

    I don’t know enough about Mizoguchi or Ozu to offer more than speculation, but I wonder if they perhaps were more concerned about the dilemma of creating an overall style of film making suitable for Japanese subjects, something that Sato mentions in the interview.

    This is exactly what I was thinking of when I mentioned Zen aesthetics. Sato mentions the fact that Ozu’s famous (or infamous) low angle shots resulted from his depiction of a traditional tatami-mat lifestyle, which as Sato mentions is very static — the camera stays low and pretty much stationary throughout. Because his movies to a large extent took place in domestic interiors, they have a very horizontal feel and stillness to them that could easily be equated with Zen or a Zen aesthetic. And Mizoguchi, at least in The 47 Ronin, not only kept the camera static, he framed shots using the set’s architectural features as if they were prosceniums.

    On the other hand, Kurosawa’s period films were predominantly samurai films with a great deal of action and not as much sitting around on mats and talking as in The 47 Ronin, and his contemporary films were in urban settings where either home was a Western-style apartment (Drunken Angel) or wasn’t seen much (Ikiru). Hence his camerawork and editing could be more dynamic.

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)



Leave a comment

Log in or Register to post a comment!