AKIRA KUROSAWA (1910-1998) and his influence in film

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©Film4

Born in Japan 1910 Kurosawa always knew he wanted to be a filmmaker. At the age of 26 after his brother died he was recruited by Japanese film studio PCL. Film became his life, making more than 30 films, working as an Assistant Director, and writing many screenplays.

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Rashomon (1950) ©Daiei Film

Rashomon (1950) winning the Golden Lion award became one of the biggest moments in Japanese film history. With an enormous amount of press worldwide it was the first time Japan had been viewed internationally in a great light after WWII. Startled by their success, Daiei Film Co. produced many subtitled versions for American and European countries and rereleased it worldwide. This meant that Rashomon was the first Japanese film to be seen and loved worldwide.

Seven Samurai (1954) and Yojimbo (1961) being his most influential works in Hollywood sees films such as The Magnificent Seven and A Fistful of Dollars deriving most of it’s style from them. Kurosawa was the most successful director to first use telephoto lenses for photography and the first to use slow motion in action sequences.

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Seven Samurai (1954) ©Toho

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Yojimbo (1961) ©Toho Studio

 

Kurosawa’s film generally follow 4 characteristics which make his films so unique:

1.Repetition:

In order to emphasise the dynamic nature of some scenes, Kurosawa will repeat various narrative elements.

2. Narrative Pauses:

For the audience to take time and reflect on the previous scene to be able to follow what happens next, Kurosawa uses the simple technique of long narrative pauses.

3. Other Influences:

As a fan of European and American film Kurosawa has adapted literature such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth for his film Throne of Blood (1957). John Ford being his greatest inspiration, Kurosawa is rumoured to draw upon many of Ford’s great westerns.

4. Humanism

His work is based on the goodness and dignity of human beings. The human spirit is often the main notion around Kurosawa’s films.

“Kurosawa was one of film’s true greats. His ability to transform a vision into a powerful work of art is unparalleled” – George Lucas 

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5 anime films for the non-anime lover

1) SPIRITED AWAY (2001) 

 

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©Studio Ghibli

The first time I saw Spirited Away was at the Secret Cinema where I was able to eat all the different foods they were eating on screen. This included yummy rice balls, sweets and all sort of sushi, this is what makes Spirited Away one for the foodies.

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, this Stuido Ghibli film offers an equal balance between horror and humour. The beautiful composition of art and Miyazaki’s unique way of making the audience feel compassion and appreciation towards the characters makes him one my top storytellers.

This film follows a shy, grumpy young girl named Chihiro whose parents decide to move far out of the country. Whilst on their way to their new home they explore an abandoned theme park where she is approached by a boy who warns her to leave before nightfall. However, before she is able to escape night has fallen and she ends up stuck in a spirit world.

I’m not going to give away the rest as it’s a great start for those who have never seen any anime before. Miyazaki draws on pain, death and blood whilst still keeping a childlike atmosphere around. It can be said this film features many life lessons implying that with love, humour and stunning animation these life lessons are all worth while.

2) URUSEI YATSURA: BEAUTIFUL DREAMER (1984) 

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©AnimEigo ©MVM Films

Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer is a long-running manga silly comedy series about a flirty schoolboy, his alien girlfriend, and their crazy classmates. This is the second Urusei Yatsura film for director Mamoru Oshii, and you can distinctively tell he made this film however and whatever he wanted. Although not being completely embraced by some Japanese, Western culture took a huge liking towards it as no previous manga knowledge is needed. Due to its cheeky innuendos and quirky humour this film makes it universal and fun despite your background.

3) PAPRIKA (2006)

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©Madhouse ©Sony Pictures Entertainment Japan

 This was he last of masterful director Satoshi Kon’s work before he sadly died. However, he still managed to convey (like all this other films) tales of dreamy exploration and manipulation.

It is basically a film about dreams, jumping from one to the other eventually loosely tying up at the end, and revolves around the manipulation of dreams and how they can be accessed even in real life. Kon perfectly depicts the shift between reality and the dreamworld. It should be enjoyed as an exciting ride with giant dolls and clowns entertaining you throughout.

Paprika draws you in and never lets you go. You may feel a little confused throughout but that is the whole point, it opens up your conscious to some out of this world imaginations. Its visual beauty and vibrant characters makes it a must see.

4) PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997) 

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©Studio Ghibli

Another Miyazaki film, Princess Mononoke is set in a medieval Japan where some men lived in coherence with nature and others were out to destroy it. It tells the story of how all humans, animals, and nature Gods will fight for their power and land they want.

It’s attention to such close details makes this film, for me, one of the most visually inventive films. Miyazaki also creates a deep sense of humanism which differs from many other Hollywood love stories. In one scene, Ashitaka and San confess their lvoe for each other but because of the different paths their lives take they have to let each other go. Overall, it’s a must see and sways from conventional animations.

5) GHOST IN THE SHELL (1995) 

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©Production I.G

Ghost In The Shell, directed by Mamoru Oshii, was adapted from Masamune’s manga series. Set in its near-future world, humans co-exist with robots and cyborgs. This film is predominately aimed at a more mature audience because of its scenes filled with sex, violence and nudity, and displays women as being protagonists but completely in the nude.

It’s not a film which can be grasped immediately, but it you can get past it’s mind-altering storylines it’s an anime which Sci-Fi fans will thoroughly enjoy.

 

REVIEW: Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami, born in Kyoto 1949, sold the Jazz bar he owned with his wife in 1979 to become a full time writer after his first Japanese publication. His surrealist and fantasist narratives is what makes him an important figure amongst Postmodern literature.

Kafka On The Shore follows the lives of two protagonists, 15 year old runaway, Kafka Tamura, and an elderly man Nakata. It begins with the story of Kafka (whose real name we never actually find out) running away from his famous sculptor fathers home and ends up on a small island in Takamatsu called Shikoku. Here, he meets transgender librarian and its mysterious owner Miss Saeki who provides him with a job and shelter. Nakata’s plot begins with X-File record by American Occupation Force describing the events that took place during the war: a group of war evacuees loosing consciousness after supposedly spotting a UFO. All recovered expect for Nakata who woke up from a coma saying he is “not very bright” but has the power to talk to cats (Murakami’s books often feature cats to act as members from another world, and his Jazz cafe was called Power Cat). One of Nakata’s cat searches leads him to Kafka’s fathers house, Koichi Tamura (who is disguised as Johnnie Walker from the whiskey label), where Nakata is forced to kill him to save the cats souls from being used for flutes. After running away from the scene Nakata manages to hitchhike a truck ending up in Shikoku.

Going back to Kafka’s story, he falls in love with the 15 year old spirit of Miss Saeki (actually 50 years old) and starts a weird affair with her although she may be his real mother. Alongside this, Kafka is being hunted down by the police for the investigation into the killing of his father. To avoid this he flees to Oshima’s hut in the forest mountains where he finds an entrance to a semi-real underworld. In the meantime, Nakata tries to hand himself into the police but just gets passed off as having dementia, which is when he jumps into Hoshino’s truck to drive to Shikoku. This is where the two narratives start to link.

Although there are many plots to keep up with which helps keep everything new and exciting, there are still some loose ends that don’t seem to tie up. Obviously I’m not going to ruin the ending but to UFO X-Files are only talked about once and not so well explained. And we never really find out if Miss Saeki is actually Kafka’s real mother, all she tells him is “you know the answer”. Or Sakura? The young girl he meets early on who may or may not be his sister, but later rapes her in his dream!? However saying this as a Murakami fan the looseness entices me and it makes you dream up your own assumptions and conclusions.

It’s magical realism is what makes Kafka on the Shore so enigmatic and powerful than you would originally think. His extensive use of metaphors helps the audience think outside the box and move away from typical conventions. With reality being so unclear it opens your imagination to an array of ideas and endless possibilities. It’s one of the most captivating Murakami books yet.

I do highly recommend this book. Its surprises, jokes and dreamy illusions will keep you turning pages all night.

Can be purchased here on Amazon for only £6.29! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kafka-The-Shore-Vintage-Magic/dp/0099458322

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©Kodansha