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Akira Kurosawa, A Biography Essay, Research Paper

Akira Kurosawa was born in Tokyo. His father was a former army officer who became an athletic instructor. At 17 Kurosawa enrolled at an art school and then worked as a commercial artist. In 1936 he got a job as an assistant and scriptwriter to director at Photo Chemical Laboratories, which became better known as Toho Studios (the production company also behind Godzilla, among other films). By 1941 he was writing scripts and directing whole sequences.

The first film he fully directed was Sanshiro Sugata, a tale of a student of judo, who must defend himself against the disciples of the jujitsu dojo. After a few more films, he finally earned recognition in Japan for Drunken Angel, about a yakuza (Japanese gangster) trying to reform. The first film to get international recognition was Rashomon, which is about a rape and murder in the forest, and the mystery over who did it and why. This was the start of Kurosawa’s most popular film period, and the period that made him truly famous.

Seven Samurai started Kurosawa’s samurai series, and is the most popular of all Kurosawa’s films in the West. He was influenced by classic westerns. In the story, set in the 16th-century Japan, farmers in a village are threatened by bandits. They buy protection from a samurai warrior, who recruits other samurai to defend the village. Seven Samurai was imitated in the Hollywood production The Magnificent Seven. The Italian ’spaghetti’ Western A Fistful of Dollars, starring Clint Eastwood, was also heavily inspired by Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, starring Toshiro Mifune. It was again remade in 1996 as a gangster story Last Man Standing, starring Bruce Willis and set the in the 1930s.

Despite wide international fame, Kurosawa suffered from depression in the late 1960s and early 70s. After his latest film flopped at the box office, he attempted suicide. Once he recovered, Kurosawa spent nearly four years with Dersu Uzala, a Soviet-Japanese co-production, set in Siberia. In the 90s Kurosawa made his last and most personal films: Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams and Rhapsody in August.

Akira Kurosawa died on September 1, 1998, in Tokyo. After his death, he was honored with the most prestigious award a civilian can receive in Japan. George Lucas, Francis Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg all admit to having been heavily influenced by Kurosawa.

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