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The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune Hardcover – February, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; 1st edition (February 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057120452X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571204526
  • ASIN: 0571199828
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 2.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,665,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Akira Kurosawa dominated the landscape of post-World War II Japanese cinema with such internationally influential films as Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Ikiru. Actor Toshiro Mifune collaborated with Kurosawa on 16 films, and despite his claim that he was "always true to the Japanese spirit," critics compare his visceral acting style to that of Brando or De Niro. This is a dual biography of two Japanese film greats who brought out the best in each other, and Galbraith (The Japanese Filmography) expertly weaves together their stories. As Galbraith recounts, the two men gradually grew apart because of drinking problems, egos, and the collapse of the Japanese film industry. Much space is devoted to Kurosawa's unhappy experience attempting to direct segments of the American Pearl Harbor epic Tora! Tora! Tora!, but as Galbraith shows, Kurosawa's overwhelming desire to create led to recovery and a distinguished body of work late in life. Meanwhile, Mifune squandered his talents in a futile bid for international stardom in overblown film and television efforts. This book tells a little-known, sometimes inspiring story and provides an astute reading of major themes in the work of Kurosawa and Mifune. Recommended for public and academic libraries as a companion to Donald Richie's The Films of Akira Kurosawa (Univ. of California, 1999. rev. ed.). Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune might be thought of as John Ford and John Wayne for the world-cinema crowd. Although both had successes with other collaborators, they are best known for the 16 films they made together, the most famous being samurai-era dramas, such as Rashomon and The Seven Samurai, and the others including equally brilliant contemporary dramas. Their last work together was Red Beard (1965), and they each continued making films for another 30 years, until their deaths, nine months apart. Kurosawa has been the subject of numerous critical works, but no English-language biography predates this book. Furthermore, most of Mifune's 126 features remain unseen in the U.S. Thus Galbraith's dual biography fills two gaping holes in English-language filmography. Unable to meet with Mifune and interviewing Kurosawa only by fax, Galbraith did talk directly with coworkers and family members, and he uses published resources effectively. As one of world cinema's leading figures, Kurosawa is the more important subject here, but the information on Mifune is most welcome, too. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Mifune's standing is however sadly undermined by the author's approach.
It is informative and easy to read for a book in which the main text is 650 pages and the Filmography is 100 pages.
Robert Ashton
His dual filmography of Kurosawa and Mifune is the ideal introduction to Japanese movies for the film buff.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By David J. Loftus on February 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The careers of Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune were so intertwined -- each did much of his very best work with the other -- that it is hardly possible to think of one without the other. It was entirely fitting that a dual bio be attempted, and Galbraith is to be applauded for taking on the job and making good work of it.

Though _The Emperor and the Wolf_ looks intimidatingly thick, only 650 of its 825 pages are actual narrative (the rest is taken up by an impressively detailed filmography of the two principals which scholars will love, and extensive notes and index), and that narrative reads easily and fairly swiftly.

The emphasis is clearly on the FILMS rather than the lives of these extraordinary artists. Galbraith moves calmly over such developments as Kurosawa's 1971 suicide attempt and Mifune's mistress Mika Kitagawa. He doesn't avoid, but he doesn't dwell, either.

On the other hand, assuming the Western reader's basic ignorance of such matters (and rightly so), he takes care to summarize the work of other directors, writers, and actors whenever they crossed paths with our two heroes. Descriptions of even really bad and forgettable films that have never made it to the U.S. sometimes make one yearn to see them, never mind the many decent ones.

There are plenty of quotes from American film reviewers -- good, bad, and ugly. (I was surprised that among my favorites, Stanley Kauffmann missed the boat a few times, and John Simon utterly dismissed "Ran.") Kevin Thomas of the LA Times seems to have done the best, most consistent job of grasping what these two geniuses were doing, each time a new film came out.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By lordhoot on February 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
I think many reviewers didn't read the subtitle of the book, "Lives and Films of....." I don't think this book was meant to be a complete kiss and tell biography of Kurosawa and Mifune, this is a book which chronicled their cooperative efforts together in making films that became great classics and their relationship with and against each other. This is a book on relationship between two giants of the Japanese film industry. It was not meant to be a total biography as so many reviewers seem to have wanted.
The book gives very good background material to both men but its always about the relationship between the two. After both men split up after Red Beard, the author took pains to how see each one of them dealt with their careers afterward. Kurosawa continued to have success while Mifune drifted into period films, TV shows and his achievements suffered greatly. The book also gives a great understanding on how Japanese film industry worked, how it declined and basically how it fell apart in the face of Hollywood. Even the author expressed mixed surprised how waves of American films in a foreign nation like Japan, completely converted the Japanese audience into their own as they abandoned their own film industries into Third World status.
I thought the book was well written, well researched and explained the relationship and the films made by both Kurosawa and Mifune. But for anyone looking for a true biography, look some place else, for film historians like myself, this book is a must read.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Trista on May 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book suffers from two major failings: 1) it is completely lacking in focus 2) the author is too timid to set his own stamp on the material.
The title suggests it's about the films that director Akira Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune made together, including a well-known string of masterpieces (Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, etc.); in fact it details, chronologically and in parallel, the life and films of Kurosawa and those of Mifune. As the work they did together was only part of each man's career, the result is a lot of jumping around from one to the other, with lots of description but almost no analysis. In particular the author gives only the most minimal interpretation of the relationship between the two, either on screen or off, its obvious importance in making their masterpieces possible, or why it abruptly ended, apparently devastating the careers of both. Instead we get this happened then that happened, quotes of variable interest from people who knew one or the other, and plot summaries of every film that either Kurosawa or Mifune had anything to do with in any capacity.
Kurosawa manages to come through all this with his dignity and status as one of the greatest-ever directors more or less intact. After the break with Mifune he remained true to his talent and overcame severe financial and personal difficulties to make films such as the grand-but-dry Ran and the subtly profound Madadayo. Mifune's standing is however sadly undermined by the author's approach. His extraordinary work with Kurosawa disappears in a wealth of detail about all the other hundred or so films he appeared in and/or produced - almost all of which it would be kinder to forget - punctuated by accounts of his messy and rather pathetic private life and many business failures.
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