Red Beard — dir. Akira Kurosawa
Each holiday season, friends of Akira Kurosawa would look forward to receiving his Christmas card, which would feature a festive painting by the man himself.
Akira Kurosawa’s evening with Federico and Giulietta.
Behind the scenes of Seven Samurai (1954).
“Rashomon” actually refers to the Rajomon gate; the name was changed in a Noh play written by Kanze Nobumitsu. “Rajo” indicates the outer precincts of the castle, so “Rajomon” means the main gate to the castle’s outer grounds. The gate for my film Rashomon was the main gate to the outer precincts of the ancient capital—Kyoto was at that time called “Heian-Kyo.” If one entered the capital through the Rajomon gate and continued due north along the main thoroughfare of the metropolis, one came to the Shujakumon gate at the end of it, and the Toji and Saiji temples to the east and west, respectively. Considering this city plan, it would have been strange had the outer main gate not been the biggest gate of all. There is tangible evidence that it in fact was: The blue roof tiles that survive from the original Rajomon gate show that it was large. But, no matter how much research we did, we couldn’t discover the actual dimensions of the vanished structure.
As a result, we had to construct the Rashomon gate to the city based on what we could learn from looking at extant temple gates, knowing that the original was probably different. What we built as a set was gigantic. It was so immense that a complete roof would have buckled the support pillars. Using the artistic device of dilapidation as an excuse, we constructed only half a roof and were able to get away with our measurements. To be historically accurate, the imperial palace and the Shujakumon gate should have been visible looking north through our gate. But on the Daiei back lot such distances were out of the question, and even if we had been able to find the space, the budget would have made it impossible. We made do with a cut-out mountain to be seen through the gate. Even so, what we built was extraordinarily large for an open set.
When I took this project to Daiei, I told them the only sets I would need were the gate and the tribunal courtyard wall where all the survivors, participants, and witnesses of the rape and murder that form the story of the film are questioned. Everything else, I promised them, would be shot on location. Based on this low-budget set estimate, Daiei happily took on the project.
Later Matsutaro Kawaguchi, at that time a Daiei executive, complained that they had really been fed a line. To be sure, only the gate set had to be built, but for the price of that one mammoth set they could have had over a hundred ordinary sets. But, to tell the truth, I hadn’t intended so big a set to begin with. It was while I was kept waiting all that time that my research deepened and my image of the gate swelled to its startling proportions.
— Akira Kurosawa | Something Like An Autobiography
Costume tests for Ran.
Kurosawa has a plate of giant chocolate-covered strawberries, giant stem strawberries, and fresh raspberries in front of him. A waitress offers him some chocolate truffles and some chocolate cake, and he helps himself and contemplates his desserts with obvious pleasure. Elia Kazan, a few seats away at the table, catches his eye. “The film I want to see again is the Russian one—Dersu Uzala,” Kazan says, looking at Kurosawa with boyish admiration. “I saw it five years ago, when it came out. Did you work with the author? How does a script like that come to be?”
Kurosawa nods several times and laughs, putting back on his plate a chocolate-covered strawberry he was about to eat. “The Soviets came to me and said, ‘We want you to direct a film in Russia. Whatever you want to do.’ I suggested the Russian novel by Vladimir Arseniev. I had read it thirty years before. The Russians were amazed that I knew this book, and accepted immediately. The Russian writer Yuri Nagibin kept coming in. We did the screenplay together, working in Russia. That is”—Kurosawa gives a mischievous kind of grin—“his ideas were not usually acceptable, so we stayed mainly with ideas that were mine.” He pops the chocolate covered strawberry into his mouth.
[Profiles: Kurosawa Frames | The New Yorker — 1981]
"I don’t yet have a good grasp of what cinema is, but these days, I have begun to think that the secret of cinema lies in the connection between one cut and the next." — 1997
March 23, 1910 — September 6, 1998
Akira Kurosawa and Martin Scorsese (as Vincent van Gogh) during the making of Dreams.
"I changed my thinking about musical accompaniment from the time Fumio Hayasaka began working with me as composer on my film scores. Up until that time film music was nothing more than accompaniment—for a sad scene there was always sad music. This is the way most people use music, and it is ineffective. But from Drunken Angel onward, I have used light music for some key sad scenes, and my way of using music has differed from the norm—I don’t put it in where most people do. Working with Hayasaka, I began to think in terms of the counterpoint of sound and image as opposed to the union of sound and image.” [x]
"He was a fine man. We worked so well together because one’s weakness was the other’s strength. It was as though he—with his glasses—were blind; and as though I were deaf. We had been together ten years and then he died. It was not only my loss. It was music’s loss as well. You don’t meet a person like that twice in your life." [x]
Kurosawa on Fumio Hayasaka (August 19, 1914 — October 15, 1955)