Monday, February 19, 2007
Kurosawa Revisited -- "Yojimbo" and "Rashomon"
Michael Wood has a nice review of Akira Kurosawa's "Yojimbo" in the London Review of Books [here].
What's that you say? You've never heard of Kurosawa? I'm sure you've seen his films, if only in remakes. "Yojimbo" was remade by Sergio Leone as "A Fistful of Dollars", the movie that made Clint Eastwood famous. It was later remade as "Last Man Standing" starring Bruce Willis. Kurosawa also made the "Seven Samurai" which was remade by Hollywood as "The Magnificent Seven." If you watch the attack on the second fortress in "Ran" [Kurosawa's reimagining of "King Lear" as a samurai epic] you will see where Spielberg got his inspiration for the first segment of "Saving Private Ryan". And, of course, as everyone knows, George Lucas' "Star Wars" is a retelling of Kurosawa's "Hidden Castle." The point is that American and European film makers have been plundering Kurosawa's films for decades.
Wood is celebrating the Criterion release of "Yojimbo". More important is the fact that Kurosawa's greatest film, "Rashomon"is now in the public domain and can be downloaded for free from Google Video here. Like almost everything else Kurosawa did, "Rashomon" was remade by Hollywood. It appeared as "The Outrage" starring Paul Newman and a very young Captain Kirk, directed by Martin Ritt and photographed by James Wong Howe. [and that's as good as it gets, kids].
If you have some free time, by all means download "Rashomon" and watch it. The film regularly appears on ten best of all time lists and for good reason. I think you'll enjoy it. I certainly did. And, next time you hear someone say they had a "Rashomon moment" you'll know exactly what they are talking about.