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The Films of Akira Kurosawa, Third Edition, Expanded and Updated [Paperback]

by Donald Richie
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 20, 1999 0520220374 978-0520220379 Third Edition, With a New Epilogue
In an epilogue provided for his incomparable study of Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998), Donald Richie reflects on Kurosawa's life work of thirty feature films and describes his last, unfinished project, a film set in the Edo period to be called The Ocean Was Watching.

Kurosawa remains unchallenged as one of the century's greatest film directors. Through his long and distinguished career he managed, like very few others in the teeth of a huge and relentless industry, to elevate each of his films to a distinctive level of art. His Rashomon—one of the best-remembered and most talked-of films in any language—was a revelation when it appeared in 1950 and did much to bring Japanese cinema to the world's attention. Kurosawa's films display an extraordinary breadth and an astonishing strength, from the philosophic and sexual complexity of Rashomon to the moral dedication of Ikiru, from the naked violence of Seven Samurai to the savage comedy of Yojimbo, from the terror-filled feudalism of Throne of Blood to the piercing wit of Sanjuro.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Here is a chance to read a terrific study of Kurosawa's films by the foremost critic of Japanese cinema and a man who had a personal acquaintance with the filmmaker. Newly revised and updated, this classic study now covers all of Kurosawa's films, surveying an extraordinary 50 year career. If you have any interest in Japanese cinema or in the art of movies in general, you can't go wrong viewing Kurosawa's films. Ritchie's book will guide you through them, teaching you about the man and his genius. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This third edition of a work first published in 1965 covers the four films made since the second edition was released, including Ran, arguably Kurosawa's biggest hit in America. Kurosawa is acknowledged as one of the greatest artists of the sound era, and he is easily the best-known Japanese director to Western audiences. This book concentrates solely on the films themselves; other than a brief biographical section that ends when Kurosawa began directing and a closing analysis of his style and methods, no additional topic is covered. Each film is analyzed separately along the lines of characterization, story, camera, production, music, treatment, and so forth. Greater space is given to the masterpieces: Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Ikiru, and The Throne of Blood. Richie's expertise is hard to miss; surely he overlooks no aspect of these films. Given Kurosawa's age (he's 86) and the difficulties of financing in Japanese cinema, it is unlikely he will produce any more movies. Highly recommended for academic and film collections; public libraries should buy according to demand.?Marianne Cawley, Enoch Pratt Free Lib., Baltimore
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Third Edition, With a New Epilogue edition (January 20, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520220374
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520220379
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 9.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,186 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coffeetable Kurosawa April 17, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The Films of Akira Kurosawa" is a great introduction to Kurosawa. In both physical size and length, it is an unintimidating invitation to those seeking to learn more about a director whose films they enjoy. It is the most visual of Kurosawa studies, which is nice considering that films are a visual medium. There are both candid on-set shots as well as film stills.
The book is designed for browsing, and does not need to be read front to back. A reader can easily skip around to the films that they are interested in. The writing is casual, and reads easy. Too many Kurosawa books read like college texts, and Donald Richie fills a niche by supplying a book for the casual reader.
The only drawback to "The Films of Akira Kurosawa" is that your interest will be sparked for many films that are not readily available. You will embark on a treasure hunt, seeking out rare gems such as "Drunken Angel," "The Bad Sleep Well" and "Throne of Blood."
To add to the author's credentials, Donald Richie supplies the commentary track on the Criterion Collection DVD of "Roshomon."
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather wonderful...fifteen years ago. February 27, 2006
Format:Paperback
When I was a teenager this was my bible. I was fixated on Kurosawa's films ever since my father forced me to sit through "The Seven Samurai" when I was a child. This book was valuable to me for the simple reason that a good number of Kurosawa's films were hard for me to find on video (as far as a good revival showing, forget it). I found the essays to be informative and at times insightful, and, if nothing else, Richie is always good for an anecdote. However, the book takes a strange turn down a darker path in the final half-dozen chapters or so. I've always had the feeling that Kurosawa must have somehow personally offended or insulted Richie, since the tone becomes one of dismissal and personal attack. Some of the essays aren't even by Richie himself, as if he won't deign to review Kurosawa's little movies. He tells us that Kurosawa was essentially a pathetic man with no life outside of film making (how many other artists could one say that about?). He even makes fun of the poor man's musical tastes. Films like "Kagemusha" and "Ran" are dismissed with a wave of the hand, even the awe inspiring "Dodes 'kaden" comes in for something of a drubbing. Kurosawa's final films are "overly sentimental". In fact, in the recent Alex Cox documentary on Kurosawa, "The Last Emperor", Richie's cliched "sentimental" attack on Kurosawa is itself attacked by the narrator of the film! Richie's weird (seemingly) personal vendetta on Kurosawa comes across as slightly amusing, bringing to mind the old crack about film critics being the impotent man at the orgy, or, to put it another way, Richie is the Hanslick to Kurosawa's Wagner. While flawed, Kurosawa's final films are hardly sentimental treacle, and certainly don't deserve one and a half page dismissals in a book devoted to their creator. With so much interesting Japanese film studies floating around, I'm not sure Richie's bitter book is worth much now.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does a genius justice January 21, 2000
Format:Paperback
My mother took me to the first Kurosawa film I can remember ("Ikiru") when I was probably about five. I was not in a position to appreciate it then, of course, but a couple of images stuck with me forever. I saw a few more Kurosawas in high school, fortunately -- the earlier, butchered "Seven Samurai," "Yojimbo," possibly one or two more -- and many others when I got to college in Boston.
Kurosawa was one of the true artistic geniuses of the twentieth century. His career as a screenwriter began during the Second World War and as a director shortly after it. Despite the strange culture and often historic settings of his stories, Kurosawa is perhaps the most "Western" of Japanese film directors up to the 1970s. The plots have a clarity, and the action (Samurai sword battles, for instance) a vibrancy, that grip a viewer in a way lesser filmmakers on both sides of the Pacific cannot hope to match.
His work has probably influenced more other filmmakers than any director in or out of the US. Other reviewers have named names; as to specific works, "Rashomon" was remade as "The Outrage," "Seven Samurai" turned into "The Magnificent Seven," "Yojimbo" became "A Fistful of Dollars," and "The Hidden Fortress" inspired "Star Wars." In turn, Kurosawa made films based on the plots of "Macbeth," "King Lear," Dostoevsky's "The Idiot," and Gorky's "The Lower Depths."
Richie's book does this incredible writer and director's work full justice. His discussion of plotting, acting, editing technique, and all the other aspects of this great artist's work only deepen one's appreciation for what already loves on screen. I have an original hardcover copy as well as the third revised edition in paperback.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive, fascinating and lucid analysis July 3, 2001
Format:Paperback
I was most impressed with this book - the neat layout, the methodical approach of dealing with each film, the lavish screenshots and the impressive knowledge the author has of his subject. Most of all however, i really appreciated the way in which Richie makes absolutely clear all his ideas - even to a reader who had very little knowledge of cinematography or film criticism like myself. This is not to say the content of this book is simple, moreover it is presented in a way which anyone can understand. Richie's style is refreshingly fluid and jargon-free which makes the book very easy to read, unlike many critical volumes which are verbose and long-winded. There are many films in this book which i have still not seen, but it has really sparked my interest in Kurowasawa and his films. If you wish to obtain a concise but thorough grounding in the critical ideas relating to this brilliant directors work, then this book is ideal for you.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT COMPILATION
Most Comprehensive understanding of the master !! A Good read for Students of Cinema and Amateurs. A Must Read for everyone
Published 1 month ago by K PADMAKAR
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Very thorough and well written review of the films of the great Kurosawa. Nice photographs, format and excellent analysis of each film.
Published 3 months ago by Benjamin D Morgan
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, learned a lot.
Ordered for a class and the book helped out with several assignments and I learned so much about Kurosawa. .
Published 4 months ago by WASP
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, undepth information
I bought this as a gift for my husband who teaches a university course on Japanese film. He is so pleased with it. The author is the ultimate expert. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Denise Jensen
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rich Book About One of the Greatest Film Directors
Akira Kurosawa is a man that needs no introduction, but what he seriously needed was a book that offered a thorough portrait on his movies and his career which spanned 50 years and... Read more
Published 17 months ago by JLR
4.0 out of 5 stars Analysis to Kurosawa
The book I actually got through a third party is the Second Edition that was published in 1984, prior to when RAN was made and as Kurosawa and Mifune were still alive. Read more
Published on December 13, 2009 by James J. Cremin
3.0 out of 5 stars Read this book after watching ten of his films
I would just go ahead and watch ten of Kurosawa's films. Then it is somewhat interesting to read this book to understand some connections between the films and techniques employed. Read more
Published on October 29, 2009 by Jackal
4.0 out of 5 stars A good overview with some interesting criticism.
I was drawn to this book after hearing Mr. Richie's commentary on the DVD of "Rashomon". In many ways this book is a continuation of that type of commentary. Read more
Published on September 3, 2008 by Roman Martel
4.0 out of 5 stars The Films of Akira Kurosawa
Donald Richie's very long-term knowledge of Japanese culture and cinema and his perspective as a Westerner make his assessment of "the Emperor"'s oeuvre very informative and... Read more
Published on October 16, 2005 by Jeffrey S. Frawley
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your time on this.
Donald Richie is an extraordinary interpreter of Japanese culture. He has translated many great modern Japanese books and I'm certain his knowledge of Japanese language is... Read more
Published on September 11, 2005 by N. E. Carey
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