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News roundup: Greatest films of all time, greatest Asian films, and other great films

News from Scandal
It’s been almost a month since my latest Akira Kurosawa related news and links roundup. Let’s see what’s been discussed online this past month. We’ve got film rankings, John Ford, Woody Allen, comic books, television series and plenty of other stuff.

Let’s start with the film rankings. A reddit user has created a list of 1001 Greatest Movies of All Time by aggregating numerous top films lists, as well as taking into account IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and Letterboxd scores, both from users and critics. While any sort of objective film rankings are obviously more or less a pipe dream, it is nevertheless quite an interesting exercise. The list is topped by Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, followed by Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Kurosawa actually has five films in the top 100 (Seven Samurai #2, Rashomon #24, Ikiru #42, Ran #54 and Yojimbo #69), which is more than any other director. When the full list of 1001 films is considered, Kurosawa makes altogether 10 appearances, which is the fourth highest total, only behind Steven Spielberg (15), Alfred Hitchcock (14) and Martin Scorsese (11). Kurosawa is in a wholly respectable group there, as other ten film directors are Hayao Miyazaki, Stanley Kubrick and Ingmar Bergman.

A somewhat different ranking was recently published by the South Korean Busan International Film Festival, who celebrated their 20th anniversary by listing, with the help of 73 film professionals, the 100 most important Asian films. The list there is topped by Yasujirō Ozu’s Tokyo Story, followed by Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Although Ozu tops their separate Top 10 Directors list, the director with the most films on the top 100 ranking appears to be the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, with no less than six films featured. Ozu has five, while Kurosawa and Mizoguchi both have four. Satyajit Ray also has four films on the list, although his Apu Trilogy is treated as a single entry.

Speaking of the Apu Trilogy, Pather Panchali, which is the first film of the series, turned 60 years old a few days ago. Wikipedia celebrated this by selecting the film’s encyclopedia entry as its featured article of the day. And the reason I’m telling you this is that the article was featured thanks to our community member Dylanexpert, who also helped with the pretty comprehensive article, and who as you may remember a few years back organised us into improving Kurosawa’s Wikipedia entry.

Elsewhere, Don Brown at the Asahi Shimbun takes the above mentioned Bukan International Film Festival’s list of top Asian films as a starting point for a discussion of a new Japanese documentary film titled Sat-chan and Sho-chan: Pioneers of Japanese Independent Filmmaking. The documentary explores Japan’s independent film scene of the 1950s and 60s and will hopefully become available at some point outside of film festivals, for it looks really interesting indeed.

Writing for another Japanese newspaper, Mark Schilling’s review of Shinobu Hashimoto’s Compound Cinematics for Japan Times is very positive, although he does not like the translation. I reviewed the same book back in April and was equally enthusiastic about it.

You may remember that this year’s Cannes Film Festival premiered a 4K restoration of Ran and that it will also be screened at the Tokyo Film Festival this autumn. Not to be outdone by the Europeans or the Asians, the New York Film Festival has announced that the copy will be shown there as well.

As always, there have been a couple of blog articles on Kurosawa: Ramptop writes about Ikiru in English, Nave Bebop writes about the same film in Portuguese, Daniel S Levine writes about The Bad Sleep Well in English, Goffredo Fofi writes about Seven Samurai in Italian, Mondo 70 is disappointed in Scandal in English, and Juanjo Cerero writes in Spanish under the title “La narración en Her Story: de Aristóteles y Kurosawa al videojuego, y lo que surja”. Finally, Taste of Cinema has published one of those “best Kurosawa films” lists that you see every now and then.

I already mentioned this last month, but I thought it worth reminding anyone in Tokyo that the National Film Center are now holding a Takashi Shimura exhibition which opened on August 18. This year marks 110 years since Shimura’s birth in 1905.

In the world of television, AMC’s upcoming TV series Into the Badlands has been called an homage to Hong Kong cinema, Akira Kurosawa and John Ford by the series co-creator Miles Millar. This was in an interview with the French website Télérama (in French). The series premieres this November and appears to be about “a warrior and a young boy who journey through a dangerous feudal land together seeking enlightenment” (Wikipedia).

Kurosawa and John Ford are also mentioned as influences for the comic book series Motorcycle Samurai which, according to series creator Chris Sheridan, was pitched as an “Akira Kurosawa remake of a John Ford version of Mad Max“. You can read more at the Philstar.com interview.

Meanwhile, Woody Allen has briefly spoken about Akira Kurosawa in a recent interview with the American broadcaster NPR. When asked about his major shortcomings, the 79-year-old filmmaker calls himself “lazy and an imperfectionist” without “the intellect or the depth or the natural gift. The greatness is not in me. When you see scenes in [Akira] Kurosawa films … you know he’s a madman on the set. There would be 100 horses and everything had to be perfect. He was crazy. I don’t have any of that. … My problem is that I’m middle-class. If I was crazy I might be better.”

Kurosawa’s name pops up also in an interview with game developer Tim Schafer, who identifies the nameless main character of Yojimbo as an influence for his classic 1995 adventure game Full Throttle.

We started this news and links roundup with a reddit post and we shall finish with one as well. This time, it’s the following age old question: if both Akira Kurosawa and Francis Ford Coppola had the chance to direct the superhero film The Avengers with the budget of $220 million, which one would do better? What do you think?





Regarding The Avengers, I believe both would do well, but I have to give Kurosawa the edge for his inventiveness in staging fights and his ability with team/buddy stories. Isn’t Seven Samurai in some way the human equivalent of The Avengers?



Woody Allen’s comment about being middle-class is rather funny. Kurosawa was middle-class as well. Allen has a great deal of talent, Kurosawa was a Sensei.

All these lists of movies I have found pretty meaningless. They seem to me more about favorites than real greatness. For example, 15 mentions for Spielberg and 10 for Kurosawa. I rest my case.

On the other hand, Kurosawa never did anything like ET. One can only imagine…



@chomei, yes Allens comments are funny, but then again, he has had a huge output over the years, so he’s clearly not lazy. I think there its really a personality difference between the artist who obsesses about making the particular project perfect, and those who effortlessly churn out very good work, without having that obsession to make it perfect. Say, Brian Wilson vs. Paul McCartney.

As for Spielberg, I actually think he is a great film maker, in the sense that he has supreme technical skills, but his tragedy, if you like, is that he has no real theme, and doesn’t have the intellectual hinterland to create a theme. He seems to have realised this in later life, and now seems content to be a craftsman working on other peoples stories. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is a shame that his tastes are so relentlessly middle-brow, he seems to have no interest in challenging his audience. I very much doubt histories of cinema in 50 years time will rank him anywhere near Kurosawa.



Good comment about Wilson vs McCartney, may explain why I always liked the Beach Boys over the Beatles.

Regarding Spielberg I completely agree. I do think Schindler’s List is a great film in the same sense that GWTW is, or Lawrence of Arabia, albeit Lawrence is a lot more fun to watch.

Perhaps another way to look at Spielberg is through his film A.I. Originally Kubrick was going to make it. Would Kubrick’s A.I. been better than Spielberg’s?

Which would have been a better film, Kubrick’s A.I. or Kurosawa’s ET?


Vili Maunula

I’m fairly certain that I would have enjoyed Kubrick’s A.I. more than I did Spielberg’s. Although didn’t Kubrick try to get Spielberg to direct it, since the story just wasn’t falling into the usual Kubrick place, and instead kept resembling something that Spielberg (who was supposed to produce) would direct? Perhaps a true Kubrick A.I. could never even have happened.

As for E.T., somehow I have this feeling that Kurosawa’s version would have been closer to Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land or Joe Haldeman’s Camouflage, both of which in their own way ask questions about alienation, community, diversity, conformity and how we could learn to co-exist with each other. Themes central also to Kurosawa’s work.

Although to be honest I’m not entirely convinced that Kurosawa would have had the sensibilities of directing a science fiction piece. It’s an interesting thought, though.

This discussion reminded me of this video, which you people may already have seen:



I’ve never actually seen AI, so I can’t comment. I must look it up.

But what a fascinating idea it is to wonder how Kurosawa would have handled ET, or any science fiction. Kurosawa did occasionally give in to a certain sentimentality, especially in his later films, so just maybe it might have appealed to him, but as you say, Vili, he would have emphasises the issue of alienation. Someone once said that the common theme of Spielbergs films was ‘coming home’, which isn’t something that ever seemed to have interested Kurosawa. So an AK ET would I think have been a bit tougher, perhaps bleaker movie. Although in the unlikely event that Kurosawa did want to make something SciFi I would have thought something more like Dune would have been more up his street. Or even Science Fantasy – something like Earthsea. I think his interest in folklore would have attracted him to something more fantastical. He would certainly have done an amazing episode or two of Game of Thrones.

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