Akira Kurosawa 1910–
(Also Kurasawa) Japanese director and scriptwriter.
Until 1951 when Kurosawa's Rashomon won the Grand Prix at the Venice Film Festival, virtually no Japanese films were seen in the United States. The popularity of Kurosawa's film opened the way for Japanese masters like Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi.
Kurosawa began as a painter, studying at the Tokyo Academy of Fine Arts. It was by chance that he became a director. Answering a newspaper advertisement, he was hired by Toho Studios. Kurosawa worked under Kajiro Yamamoto, who taught him not only directing but scriptwriting. Fully expecting to leave the industry and go back to painting, Kurosawa was surprised to find that he loved directing.
Kurosawa has professed a taste for Western art which is evident in his films. While this has made him readily popular in the West, he has been criticized in Japan for the occidental flavor of his films. Still, he has managed to bridge the gap between the oriental and occidental tastes and address himself to subjects that are universal: the futility of a selfish life (Ikiru and Red Beard), the subjective quality of truth (Rashomon), the power and beauty of love (One Wonderful Sunday and No Regrets for Our Youth). Yet each of his films is a multifaceted gem which defies classification by any one theme.
Kurosawa has directed many chambara (or sword-fight) films which are immensely popular. Often considered the best of these is The Seven Samurai. This film also boasts a fine performance by Tashiro Mifune. Mifune and Kurosawa have done some of their best work together and have become associated in the minds of many critics and film buffs.
Although some critics find Kurosawa's films overly emotional or stilted, it is to his credit that he has established a name for himself in countries whose philosophies and life-styles differ so much from his own. Audie Bock has written in her Japanese Film Directors: "If Kurosawa can begin making films in Japan that speak to the underlying spiritual needs of an overeducated, overfed nation—and he is one of the very few who have the potential for spiritual and intellectual leadership—not only will his own work be revitalized, but its international currency will be, if anything, reinforced."