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The Films of Akira Kurosawa [Paperback]

Donald Richie
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: £26.95 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

24 Feb 1996
In an epilogue provided for his incomparable study of Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998), Donald Richie reflects on Kurosawa's life work of thirty feature films and describes his last, unfinished project, a film set in the Edo period to be called The Ocean Was Watching. Kurosawa remains unchallenged as one of the century's greatest film directors. Through his long and distinguished career he managed, like very few others in the teeth of a huge and relentless industry, to elevate each of his films to a distinctive level of art. His Rashomon--one of the best-remembered and most talked-of films in any language--was a revelation when it appeared in 1950 and did much to bring Japanese cinema to the world's attention. Kurosawa's films display an extraordinary breadth and an astonishing strength, from the philosophic and sexual complexity of Rashomon to the moral dedication of Ikiru, from the naked violence of Seven Samurai to the savage comedy of Yojimbo, from the terror-filled feudalism of Throne of Blood to the piercing wit of Sanjuro.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 274 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 3rd Revised edition edition (24 Feb 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520220374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520220379
  • Product Dimensions: 24.9 x 25 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 451,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"A perceptive, detailed, and richly illustrated volume, it examines Kurosawa's choice of themes, story-telling techniques, camera work, and directorial style."--"Cinema Canada

About the Author

Donald Richie is the Arts Critic for The Japan Times.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Akira Kurosawa was born in Tokyo in 1910. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This is simply an excellent book. It thouroughly chronicles all of Akira Kurosawa's movies. It's chock full of detailed breakdowns of the story, production and post production of all of Kurosawa's films. Let me add that ALL of Kurosawa's movies are discussed in detail.
There is also a section towards the end in which Kurosawa talks about his philosophy on the elements of filmmaking. I found this section to be extremely invaluable. I understand why filmmakers like Steven Speilberg and George Lucas were influenced by his work. If you love Akira Kurosawas films, this is the book to get. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great retrospective of a great filmmaker 12 May 1998
By A Customer
Akira Kurosawa is my favorite director. He alos made my favorite move. "Seven Samurai". Donald Richie's book examines each of Kurosawa's films in fine detail and shows us what makes a truly great director.
Richie's insights and analysis had me buying, unseen, copies of "Ikiru" and "Sleeping Dogs". He made want to see these movies that much. All of Kurosawa's films through "Rhapsody In August" are covered here. The chapters on "Ran" and "Dreams" are excellent and show that Kurosawa's talent has not diminished with age. (If you haven't seen these two films, I urge you to do son along with the underrated "Dersu Uzala")
If you are unfamiliar with the brilliance of Akira Kurosawa, this book will introduce you to the works of a world class director whose works should be appreciated more. His influence on Peckinpah, Scorsese, John Sayles, George Miller, John Woo and others is apparent. George Lucas and Francis Coppola helped finance "Kagemusha" when financing in Japan became difficult. Steven Spielberg presented Kurosawa with a lifetime achievment Academy Award. These directors know this is one of film history's greatest artists. The rest of us should know this as well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book of the films of a real master 20 Mar 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was first introduced to Kurosawas films in the early 70s and loved them. It is great to find a book that reviews and fills in the background on them. I originally had an earlier version which missed out his later films. An ex-partner threw it away. The only goood thing about that was it made me get this version.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Simply offensive! 23 May 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can't believe someone ever could get this text published...its interest amounts to almost nothing (only a few quotations from A. Kurosawa's Autobiography do give some real information)...
The whole book is only a synopsis of each film (some of them oddly misunderstood in basic aspects)...which makes it useless if you've already watched them, and if you haven't, it spoils the experience by revealing the whole plot and ending.
Then, Richie gives his own opinion, interpretation and criticism of each this point, the book was empty, but with this, it becomes simply offensive! He contradicts himself, often in the same paragraph, as he also contradits Kurosawa's reports about the films, shooting, actors, results, etc...
Richie, eager to say something witty apparently at any cost, points at supposed, sometimes stilted and sometimes hackneyed symbolisms, everywhere (Kurosawa politely wrote a kind preface to this book, but did add to it that he doesn't always agree with Richie's statements on his work), while he despises most moments of emotion in these films...
He intends to write an hermeneutic pseudo-philosophical textbook on something that isn't correctly approached by these means: film and art...
And writes about his own reactions to the films, explaining his own (mysteriously restrained) tastes, which can't be of much interest to any reader interested in Kurosawa's work rather than in Mr. Richie...
The book barely contains any information about the making of the films, conception of the idea and the script, etc, in any case much less than you can find in Kurosawa's interviews or own Autobiography.
It lacks interest, reliability and respect to an unbelievable extend in a book...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather wonderful...fifteen years ago. 28 Feb 2006
By rangerfield - Published on
When I was a teenager this was my bible. I was fixated on Kurosawa's films ever since my father forced me to sit through "The Seven Samurai" when I was a child. This book was valuable to me for the simple reason that a good number of Kurosawa's films were hard for me to find on video (as far as a good revival showing, forget it). I found the essays to be informative and at times insightful, and, if nothing else, Richie is always good for an anecdote. However, the book takes a strange turn down a darker path in the final half-dozen chapters or so. I've always had the feeling that Kurosawa must have somehow personally offended or insulted Richie, since the tone becomes one of dismissal and personal attack. Some of the essays aren't even by Richie himself, as if he won't deign to review Kurosawa's little movies. He tells us that Kurosawa was essentially a pathetic man with no life outside of film making (how many other artists could one say that about?). He even makes fun of the poor man's musical tastes. Films like "Kagemusha" and "Ran" are dismissed with a wave of the hand, even the awe inspiring "Dodes 'kaden" comes in for something of a drubbing. Kurosawa's final films are "overly sentimental". In fact, in the recent Alex Cox documentary on Kurosawa, "The Last Emperor", Richie's cliched "sentimental" attack on Kurosawa is itself attacked by the narrator of the film! Richie's weird (seemingly) personal vendetta on Kurosawa comes across as slightly amusing, bringing to mind the old crack about film critics being the impotent man at the orgy, or, to put it another way, Richie is the Hanslick to Kurosawa's Wagner. While flawed, Kurosawa's final films are hardly sentimental treacle, and certainly don't deserve one and a half page dismissals in a book devoted to their creator. With so much interesting Japanese film studies floating around, I'm not sure Richie's bitter book is worth much now.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coffeetable Kurosawa 17 April 2002
By Zack Davisson - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The Films of Akira Kurosawa" is a great introduction to Kurosawa. In both physical size and length, it is an unintimidating invitation to those seeking to learn more about a director whose films they enjoy. It is the most visual of Kurosawa studies, which is nice considering that films are a visual medium. There are both candid on-set shots as well as film stills.
The book is designed for browsing, and does not need to be read front to back. A reader can easily skip around to the films that they are interested in. The writing is casual, and reads easy. Too many Kurosawa books read like college texts, and Donald Richie fills a niche by supplying a book for the casual reader.
The only drawback to "The Films of Akira Kurosawa" is that your interest will be sparked for many films that are not readily available. You will embark on a treasure hunt, seeking out rare gems such as "Drunken Angel," "The Bad Sleep Well" and "Throne of Blood."
To add to the author's credentials, Donald Richie supplies the commentary track on the Criterion Collection DVD of "Roshomon."
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does a genius justice 21 Jan 2000
By David J. Loftus - Published on
My mother took me to the first Kurosawa film I can remember ("Ikiru") when I was probably about five. I was not in a position to appreciate it then, of course, but a couple of images stuck with me forever. I saw a few more Kurosawas in high school, fortunately -- the earlier, butchered "Seven Samurai," "Yojimbo," possibly one or two more -- and many others when I got to college in Boston.
Kurosawa was one of the true artistic geniuses of the twentieth century. His career as a screenwriter began during the Second World War and as a director shortly after it. Despite the strange culture and often historic settings of his stories, Kurosawa is perhaps the most "Western" of Japanese film directors up to the 1970s. The plots have a clarity, and the action (Samurai sword battles, for instance) a vibrancy, that grip a viewer in a way lesser filmmakers on both sides of the Pacific cannot hope to match.
His work has probably influenced more other filmmakers than any director in or out of the US. Other reviewers have named names; as to specific works, "Rashomon" was remade as "The Outrage," "Seven Samurai" turned into "The Magnificent Seven," "Yojimbo" became "A Fistful of Dollars," and "The Hidden Fortress" inspired "Star Wars." In turn, Kurosawa made films based on the plots of "Macbeth," "King Lear," Dostoevsky's "The Idiot," and Gorky's "The Lower Depths."
Richie's book does this incredible writer and director's work full justice. His discussion of plotting, acting, editing technique, and all the other aspects of this great artist's work only deepen one's appreciation for what already loves on screen. I have an original hardcover copy as well as the third revised edition in paperback.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, fascinating and lucid analysis 3 July 2001
By Mike Peters - Published on
I was most impressed with this book - the neat layout, the methodical approach of dealing with each film, the lavish screenshots and the impressive knowledge the author has of his subject. Most of all however, i really appreciated the way in which Richie makes absolutely clear all his ideas - even to a reader who had very little knowledge of cinematography or film criticism like myself. This is not to say the content of this book is simple, moreover it is presented in a way which anyone can understand. Richie's style is refreshingly fluid and jargon-free which makes the book very easy to read, unlike many critical volumes which are verbose and long-winded. There are many films in this book which i have still not seen, but it has really sparked my interest in Kurowasawa and his films. If you wish to obtain a concise but thorough grounding in the critical ideas relating to this brilliant directors work, then this book is ideal for you.
57 of 72 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time on this. 11 Sep 2005
By N. E. Carey - Published on
Donald Richie is an extraordinary interpreter of Japanese culture. He has translated many great modern Japanese books and I'm certain his knowledge of Japanese language is incomparable. Unfortunately, what he most certainly is not is a legitimate film critic. The damage he does to Kurosawa in this book is unwarranted and small-minded. More than I could take. Richie's understanding of film itself is completely inadequate, forcing him to resort to literary interpretive techniques in order to make up for his misunderstanding of cinematography and the nature of film in general. At the heart of it - he is incabable of "seeing" which is the foundation of Kurosawa's work. If you like wayward, stream-of-consciousness criticism masquerading as serious film criticism you'll certainly get your fill. But most of what Richie does in this book is lob irrelevant pot-shots at Kurosawa, his personality, "mistakes" and the overriding theme (which becomes readily apparent towards the end) that his last films were just sentimental drivel. In fact I can't think of a single film covered in this book that Richie can bear to like wholeheartedly. Not without an uncomfortable juxtaposition of his true talent (literature) and film criticism - which I found to be completely inadequate. Another gaping hole is his obvious lack of understanding of the process of filmaking, or rather the way in which this process differs from writing in meaning and structure. His tone is pompous, downbeat and arrogant. For Ritchie - Kurosawa IS the film - and that is his greatest mistake - to turn the reader's attention to the "novel" of Kurosawa. Over and over he naggingly searches (pouring over grains of sand)for a continuity in Kurosawa's work that will bring a "literary" motif to everything he has done, that is to say, every disparity that exists between one film and the next is scrutinized under the lamp of literary criticism, and summarily dismissed. I can't imagine anything more inappropriate in a work of film criticism. All in all, this book comes off as a snotty jab at a master filmaker by a master spokesman for Japanese culture who simply does not understand film. I found reading it to be a wretched experience. And I hope you will too.
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