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Something Like An Autobiography Paperback – May 12, 1983

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Japanese (translation)

From the Inside Flap

Translated by Audie E. Bock.

"A first rate book and a joy to read.... It's doubtful that a complete understanding of the director's artistry can be obtained without reading this book.... Also indispensable for budding directors are the addenda, in which Kurosawa lays out his beliefs on the primacy of a good script, on scriptwriting as an essential tool for directors, on directing actors, on camera placement, and on the value of steeping oneself in literature, from great novels to detective fiction."

"For the lover of Kurosawa's movies...this is nothing short of must reading...a fitting companion piece to his many dynamic and absorbing screen entertainments."
--Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (May 12, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394714393
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394714394
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
Akira Kurosawa is now considered one of the founding fathers of cinema, but you wouldn't know it from "Something Like An Autobiography." In this book, Kurosawa is surprisingly humble and humorous when describing his life, and keeps it interesting rather than lapsing into the mechanics of filmmaking.

Born to an old samurai family, Kurosawa was a bit of an ugly duckling -- he wasn't very bright or athletic, but he had a definite drive to learn and a distinct artistic sense. He ran into a few dead ends (like his flirtation with socialism) and didn't get into the Japanese army during WW2 (something he was quite grateful for). But then Kurosawa fell headlong into scriptwriting and directing -- something that would make him famous around the world.

Usually when people talk about Kurosawa, they mention "Star Wars." And yes, Kurosawa's "Hidden Fortress" was a shaping influence on George Lucas. But Kurosawa gave the world plenty of other movie flourishes: the "wipe" effect between scenes, slow motion, pointing a camera at the sun, and many other things.

Kurosawa really gives insight into his heart and his artistry in this. Masterfully told, it's about the various parts of his life -- boyhood, adolescence, maturity, and everything in between. It's not about the making of each film, but mainly the things that were most memorable. After reading this, you'll have newfound respect for screenwriters and directors, and everything they struggle with.

But Kurosawa keeps a sense of humor about himself too. He admits frankly when he did something stupid or ignorant.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jisetsu on July 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
Something Like an Autobiography
by Akira Kurosawa
translated by Audie E. Bock
It seems obvious that this book is the first to turn to for admirers of Kurosawa's films who seek to know more about the legendary director's influences and ideas. This is the primary source in English for information about Kurosawa's early life and career, and all the film studies and biographies in print (including dvd commentary tracks and the recent documentary film) draw heavily on it.
It's an excellent book, ably translated by Audie E. Bock. Bock was Kurosawa's English translator and assistant for many years, and incidentally, has provided some of the better English subtitle translations of his films. Her translation of his text here is clear and direct.
In addition to being a great director, Kurosawa was a great scriptwriter, and he tells his own story in fine style through brief episodes that are replete with visual imagery (perhaps to be expected from a filmmaker). His recollection of his childhood is particularly revealing: of the turmoil and sweeping changes in early 20th century Japan, as well as the personal experiences and events that shaped the man he was to become.
Kurosawa recounts his story through his early career at Toho and Daiei up to the Venice Film Festival's award of the Grand Prix medal to Rashomon (1950). His decision not to proceed further is perhaps the book's only major disappointment, as Kurosawa was to live until 1998 and make many great films that are not discussed in the book.
Something Like an Autobiography will hold great appeal to any reader with an interest in 20th century Japanese culture in general, and is simply required reading for those seeking a deeper understanding of the Master's films.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
This work is pure pleasure to read. His use of language mirrors his mastery of cinematography. The book outlines his life up until 1950. While this might seem to omit many of his more well known works, enough detail and thought is given to his early days, that a true insight is gained into his life and work. I do not consider myself a movie buff, but this book doesn't get caught up in the technical side, so I was able to understand his passion clearly. Very good.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte A. Hu on June 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
This wonderful text brings the reader directly into one of the greatest minds in film history. Open, honest, real, Kurosawa shares his hopes, his fears, his true self with the reader. For those who admire Kurosawa's work, this book provides so much insight into how the great film maker got his ideas, his motivation and his drive. Unlike the Heart of Darkness, this film maker was filled with light in an otherwise dark time. Alive when the great earthquake hit Tokyo, this book takes the reader from the economic chaos of pre-WWII Japan, through the personal trials and tribulations of Ameican occupation as Kurosawa searches for an identity for his people in the modern era. Touching and painful is the reality that he had to travel aboard to make films because the international movie making genius was considered somehow second rate in Japan just because he was Japanese. Kurosawa said, I don't know why it is that Japanese people feel any thing Japanese is not good enough. His story illustrates the kind of sociological identity crisis that Japan as a whole experienced after WWII. Engaging.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William Wu on November 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Puts under the magnifying lens the life of a man with the single-mindedness and honesty to derive perfection out of a single art--the art of directing. Akira Kurosawa presents a candid side of himself and of the personal events that helped shape his career, from early on when he begins an appreciation for the arts & literature, to the point when he finally gets his "break" and starts film-making.
This is NOT a book about film-making, however, nor is it a collective analysis of the films he makes throughout his career, although there are many references to his early work. What is key to this work is Kurosawa's stream of consciousness. His book is a study in introspection and the different factors that weigh on a director's mind as he makes a film. For a would-be director, or an aspiring one, this is an inside-look at how a legendary director produces masterful work, and it is told with such simplicity, such attention to detail and personal sincerity that it equates to the feeling of reading someone's diary or personal memoirs reflecting on the times he felt were deeply affecting.
Through his work, Kurosawa proves himself a man of human insight, of penetrating power into what drives actors and assistant directors alike and bringing out the best of each to produce works of perfection. In the end, Kurosawa defines exactly what it means to direct; to have "insight" into each of the elements that produce a film, from the script-making, to the lighting crews, to the acting, to the camerawork, to the shooting and editing itself, the director is actively involved and the ability to command such forces is likened very appropriately to that of an army general.
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