Message From Akira Kurosawa -for Beautiful Movies
Director: Hisao Kurosawa
Cast: Akira Kurosawa, Kazuko Kurosawa
If you are a devoted fan of Akira Kurosawa, you should realize that it is not too hard to locate any books or publications about Kurosawa and his films, whereas there are not too many documentaries available. A couple of years ago, a British television studio has produced a documentary on Kurosawa. It provides a concise biography of the man and some interviews with his collaborators in the past. However, the information brought up in that documentary is very brief and obvious, it is only suitable for beginners or viewers who have no prior knowledge of Kurosawa. For advanced learner, Message From Akira Kurosawa - for Beautiful Movies, which is produced by Hisao and Kazuko Kurosawa, seems to be a much better choice.
This documentary is divided into ten chapters. Every aspect of Kurosawa's cinematic aesthetic, including scripwriting, cinematography, production design, storyboard, editing, costume design, music and directing, is covered. The format is mainly composed of interviews and some behind the scene footage from the production of some of his films. To most of us, the most valuable part of this film is definitely the interviews with Akira Kurosawa, the man himself. As a celebrated and prestigious director, Kurosawa was never fond of being interviewed. In fact, he seldom accepted interview request from the media. Any of his fans should absolutely not miss this rare opportunity to see him talking about his works. The only shortcoming of the interviews is that a large portion of the talks concerns his later works like Rhapsody in Augusy and Madadayo only (It seems that the interviews and footage are mostly excerpts from the making of documentaries of these films), some of his all time favorites like Yojimbo, High and Low or Hidden Fortress are barely mentioned.
From various books I read about Akira Kurosawa, it seems that he did not enjoy talking about the thematic elements of his works. He always said he could not define his own style. When he was making a film, what he cared most are the characters and the story. The theme would come up gradually and haphazardly during the production. The interviews in this documentary further affirms this confession. Whenever he is asked about the content of his films, Kurosawa would become less articulate and little reluctant to carry on his speech; On the other hand, he would cheer up and become garrulous when talking about the technical aspects of his works. After watching his interviews, I began to believe that Kurosawa was really a genius. He was a natural born filmmaker. He didn't really receive any formal training in filmmaking. He always followed his instinct to work. He was able to do what he could do simple because he was gifted!
The biggest regret of this documentary is that it is only 90 minutes long, which is definitely insufficient to cover the enormous achievement of Akira Kurosawa. Each section is just too short to satisfy our appetite. As Kazuko Kurosawa mentions in the film, it is very difficult to summarize Kurosawa's theory in merely 90 minutes. I did understand it was not an easy task to edit this documentary, but still, I would expect little more...
In conclusion, although Message From Akira Kurosawa - for Beautiful Movies is not a very comprehensive study of Kurosawa, it does apparently succeed in arousing the interest of potential newcomers and pointing a new direction for his fans to further explore his works.
Reviewed by: Kantorates