Biography of Akira Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa was a Japanese film director who is considered to be one of the most influential and important film directors in cinema history. After the smash success of his 1951 film, Rashomon, which caught the attention of Western viewers, he directed such films as Ikiru, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Kagemusha, and Ran.

Kurosawa was born in Tokyo to a wealthy samurai family, the youngest child in the family, and took an early interest in film as well as traditional Japanese swordplay. Throughout the 1930s, he trained to become a film director, working as an assistant, before transitioning to working on his first film as a director, Sanshiro Sugata, a film about judo, based on a popular novel of the time. He then directed a film called The Most Beautiful, a propaganda film about wartime female factory workers.

After the war ended, Kurosawa directed No Regrets for Our Youth, a film about political oppression in prewar Japan. Next he directed Our Wonderful Sunday, a romance, Snow Trail, an action thriller, Drunken Angel, a psychological gangster film, and Stray Dog, a detective film. In 1950, he directed Scandal, a criticism of Japanese "yellow journalism."

Kurosawa's major breakthrough was Rashomon, based on an Akutagawa short story concerning samurai, and which was shot in the forest of Nara. The film unexpectedly won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, as well as an honorary Academy Award, which launched it into the Western world and earned Kurosawa international recognition.

In 1952, Kurosawa directed Seven Samurai, an ensemble samurai film. Then he directed Record of a Living Being, a response to Japanese anxiety about nuclear testing in the Pacific. He followed this up with Throne of Blood, an interpretation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, then The Lower Depths, based on a Maxim Gorky play. After this, he started his own company, Kurosawa Productions, which released such films as The Bad Sleep Well, Yojimbo, High and Low, and Red Beard.

In 1977, George Lucas, who had been very influenced by Kurosawa's work, met with Kurosawa to help him secure funding for Kagemusha, an epic that Kurosawa was struggling to produce. The film won the Palme d'Or. He then directed Ran, a loose adaptation of King Lear, which earned Kurosawa an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. His final films were Dreams, Rhapsody in August, and Madadayo.

Study Guides on Works by Akira Kurosawa

Ran is Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's rendering of Shakespeare's King Lear, mixed with an adaptation of the legends of the Japanese daimyō, Mōri Motonari. It was produced in 1985 to critical acclaim, and is widely considered one of the...

Even if you have never heard of Rashomon, you are still likely familiar with the plot of this 1950 Japanese film directed by the master filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Television shows as diverse as All in the Family, The X-Files and King of the Hill...

During the occupation of Japan by U.S forces following its surrender at the end of World War II, samurai films fell out of favor. The controlling U.S. political machine looked unkindly on the samurai code of Bushido, which required allegiance to...