Saturday, 27 July 2013

Kurosawa and me, and you too...

So, after quite a stint on not blogging, i decided to blog about something today, just do it, it doesn't have to be purrrfect (cat lovers?), just do it and lets see what comes of it.

So, what to do?

Do what you know? Well, i don't feel like i know much these days, but i did see an excellent documentary about a Japanese director that lit a few friendly fires in my brain and if you haven't heard about a director called Kurosawa, i think your grown up enough to know, he started the career of Toshiro Mifune too.

Lets start...

Kurosawa was growing up when America thought it was a good idea to drop a two bombs on them, but lets not get into that here and now.

Giddy up

Back in those days in Japan, if you had any artistic inclination, you were thought to be a bit of a time waster, so lets not waste anymore time, he was branded like this, being an artist was below his caste, oh the shame!!

This was the perception people had, he was young, trying to get into the business, starting at the start, joined a renegade art group of like minded people, oh the shame!!

Translate this Cat

His brother was translating movies from the west, i guess they didn't have subtitles in those days, he free styled it, and for some unknown reason, his older committed suicide with his girlfriend one day, just like that, no reason, which gave him more momentum to step up and follow his path in life, and that was to make movies.

It would appear that in that culture topping yourself an honorable thing to do and justifiable, an example in the movie, a Samurai after making a small mistake would head home after a days work and end it all.

Makes sense? If this was the case i would have died a hundred times last week, next week too!!

In fact, when the Emperor of Japan after his announcement of the end of the war asked the people to go out and end it, it would have ended.  Japan would end, as Jim Morrison would say, friend', where is Jim now, i haven't heard much from him in a while, since before i was born in fact!

The end?

So, to paint a picture, quite bleak, he came from this scene. A Sphinx rose from the ashes, after his first few scripts as an assistant director, he was on his way, he got people's attention. Ahem, do i have your attention?

In fact he when he was asked about writing an autobiography, he said if you take away movies, there is nothing and he didnt want to write a book about movies, he didnt do small talk, weather? Forget it, the talk was always about the next movie.

To put a long story short, he lived while making movies, when he wasn't making movies, he was in limbo.

The second seven

If your a westerner, the first time Kurosawa would have come to your attention would have been maybe watching a movie called 'The magnificent seven', which is a remake of the 'Seven Samurai'.

Clint Eastwood had an idea to make westerns based on the same story line that Kurosawa told, he couldn't get funding, he was told it was a bad idea, so he went ahead and made them anyways and called his production company 'Malpaso', which means 'Bad step' in Spanish, and which ironically was a huge hit for him, good idea for him and it wasn't even his idea!

The original crew, the seven Samuri!!

The story of the 'Seven Samuras' is quite remarkable, he bet everything, the company that made it spent their last dollar, it took two years instead of six months, if the movie was a flop, that was it, everyone out, Hara-Kari all round!!

Hari- Kari

As your probably aware from your own life, success breeds success, if you flop in Australia, you get drunk, in Japan, queue Jim Morrison friend.

Whats interesting, one of Kurosawa's biggest fans was Francis Coppola Ford (Applause), when he made Apocalypse Now, well, it was a similar story, it was one of the greatest movies that very nearly didn't get made, he needed 50k in the end and had quite some trouble raising it, he even did the Godfather series to raise the dough and the Godfather is a cinematic masterpiece.

It's like someone painting the original Mona Lisa to raise the capital to paint a ceiling in the Vatican.

Epic scene in Ran!

One of his movies 'Ran', the last scene the castle burns to the ground, there was only one take, if the actor stumbled out the door, it was millions down the drain, epic scene, very brave risk!!!

Full movie is here


Whats interesting about Kurosawa is he criticised others for trying to appeal to the West, but when he was just doing his stuff, the west was very much paying attention, Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and that cat Capella Ford, he's another story entirely!!

When Kurosawa was washed up, disgraced, dishonored, of can you feel the shame? Francis Ford Copella stepped up and funded his hero director for his next movie, Copella had a bit of a reputation of doing this, when people are blinded by the lights, when you have a lot to lose, you wont do much, there isn't much of a difference between a rabbit in the same lights, or maybe i'm wrong?

One of Kurosawa's movies was a critical flop, so to respond he cut himself 30 times (perfectly reasonable in his culture), with all great artists that are ahead of their time, basically the deal is, people will flat out hate you, critics especially so, only because they don't know any better, it's easier to be critical than constructive, way easier.

Let me give you a few similar examples of artists beyond their time:
  • Heavy Metal, that term was coined by a critic after hearing Led Zeppelin play, he said it sounded like metal falling from the sky
  • John Coltrane, after reinventing Jazz music (i will always be grateful), the critics said he destroyed it
  •  James Joyce, after writing Ulysses, there was a conspiracy to have Ulysses, it was going to destroy the english language, but in fact he reinvented it also)
  •  Orsen Wells, Citizen Kane, that movie very nearly was burnt and because of it he was locked out of the industry, it was the movie he should't have made, every project after that project was doomed VIA a telephone call, this is why i dont hate text messages.
  • Francis Ford Copella, was driven to the point of insanity, it took him eight years to make Apocolypse Now, check out the documentary called 'Into the heart of darkness'
Now that i think about it,  Citizen Kane killed the career of Orsen Wella, when the Americans occupied Japan after the way, Kurosawa had to wait seven years before releasing a movie he made, it was for fear it would inspire an uprising against the invaders, maybe waiting saved his career?

So, maybe its best to wait, maybe that what you've waited to hear?

 Peace out, till the next time...

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