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Kurosawa Interview from 1981

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    Patrick Galvan

    In 1981, Kurosawa was interviewed before a live audience by American talk show host Dick Cavett, with Audie Bock serving as translator. Some really interesting questions and answers here. I am most fascinated that both Kurosawa and Mikio Naruse had tried to adapt the novel “Black Rain,” many years before Shohei Imamura made his famous adaptation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UCG_pwOCHk

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    Longstone

    Thanks for posting that, certainly didn’t know about it and actually amazed they gave it a go but it seemed to work okay. That is fascinating about Black rain, it would have been interesting to see how either of them would have adapted it. I love Imamura’s version, interestingly shot in black and white given one of the other questions in that interview. I’m amazed no one has released that on Blu-ray, it may even be long out of print on DVD ? I only recently read a translation of the novel which I really enjoyed and was surprised how little Imamura seemed to stray from the original.

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    Vili Maunula

    Wow, thanks for this, Patrick! I have looked for this over the years but never seen it before. Such a lovely discussion, and while the language barrier obviously keeps it a little superficial, it still felt more substantial and real than most talk show interviews these days.

    I love Imamura’s Black Rain, it has stayed with me ever since I first saw it. I think it’s one of those films that has only gotten dearer to me over the years. Even if I haven’t watched it for a long time, images, scenes and feelings keep coming back to me. It’s a really impressive film.

    I would love to have a transdimensional teleporter and see both Kurosawa’s and Naruse’s versions of the story. I can only imagine how different those two would have been from Imamura’s, and from each other!

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    Patrick Galvan

    Dick Cavett’s show was one of the most interesting American talk shows of its time, as he zeroed in on a broad variety of subjects, with an emphasis on intelligent conversation. His second question — about Kurosawa’s remembrances of prewar Tokyo — gets this conversation off a really interesting and thoughtful start.

    Imamura’s film is extraordinary and was very much worth the time it took in getting an adaptation off the ground. I’m especially interested in what Naruse would’ve done with the novel. His movie A Woman’s Sorrows has flashback scenes to the firebombings of Tokyo, and the earlier Whistling in Kotan showed what he could do with the subject of ostracization in Japanese society. Using those two particular movies as references, I imagine his Black Rain adaptation would’ve been exceptionally moving.

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    njean

    Thank you for posting this!

    In the fall of 1981 the Japan Society in New York sponsored the first retrospective of all 26 of Kurosawa’s films to date, all English sub-titled. Audie Bock was with him on that occasion. Not only had she been involved in making Kagemusha, but they were both looking forward to the 1982 publication of Something Like An Autobiography, which she had translated. I’m guessing that was why he was available for this New York TV appearance.

    I was interested in his answer to the question of why, if he’s a pacifist, does he have so much violence in his films. Basically his answer was, I hate it so much, it’s always on my mind. In other writings or interviews he has said (I’m paraphrasing) war (violence) is not glamorous; it’s dirty, ugly, awful, and lots of people die. I portray it that way in order to get the message across.

    I was a little disappointed in some of Dick Cavett’s questions. But then I thought, he’s speaking to a very diverse audience, some of whom have probably never heard of Kurosawa. So I forgive him. It does make me think about what would I ask Kurosawa if I had the chance. What would you?

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    chomei

    Thanks for this, I found it fascinating. I think if I could have asked a question it would have concerned the end of the war and the “honorable death of the 100 million” where, as I understood it from his autobiography, the entire nation would have been expected to commit suicide rather than surrender to the American forces. But that probably would have been a somewhat impolite question.

    I have read a fair amount about the war and recall reading very little about it except in his book, where he readily admits that if the Emperor had ordered it he would have done it.

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    Vili Maunula

    njean: In the fall of 1981 the Japan Society in New York sponsored the first retrospective of all 26 of Kurosawa’s films to date, all English sub-titled. Audie Bock was with him on that occasion. Not only had she been involved in making Kagemusha, but they were both looking forward to the 1982 publication of Something Like An Autobiography, which she had translated. I’m guessing that was why he was available for this New York TV appearance.

    Indeed! If anyone is interested, Kurosawa’s New York trip is recounted in quite some detail by Lillian Ross in the December 21, 1981 issue of The New Yorker, and reprinted in Akira Kurosawa: Interviews. The Dick Cavett interview, for instance, was apparently taped on Wednesday from 3 pm, after a morning photo portrait session with Arnold Newman (which I think produced this often seen photo) during which Kurosawa was reportedly uncomfortable with the camera pointing at him, followed by a press luncheon at the Japan house with Stanley Kauffmann. He appears to have had the evening off on Wednesday but had quite a busy schedule for most of that week.

    njean: It does make me think about what would I ask Kurosawa if I had the chance. What would you?

    That is a surprisingly tough question! Knowing that he would likely not talk about his films beyond technical details, or his family life, I would perhaps be interested in exploring his interest in painting, what his influences and favourites were beyond Van Gogh, and whether he had kept an eye on the development of the art form throughout the 20th century, and if it influenced his approach to film and colour use in some way. It is an aspect that seems to have been fairly little discussed, despite most biographies noting his background as an aspiring painter.

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