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Akira Kurosawa: Master of Cinema Hardcover – March 9, 2010
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"The homage best suited for you coffee table comes from film historian Peter Cowie ... a visually stunning study of the director's work." ~Details
"A book of value to Kurosawa novices and to aficionados in search of deeper insight. Beautifully bound and printed, and lavishly illustrated ... it's a book worthy of its subject." ~San Francisco Chronicle
"The quiet, quotidian aspect of Kurosawa's art gets a nice push in the impressively lavish. We're talking stacks of high-grade stills, notes, mockups Akira Kurosawa: Master of Cinema." ~Atlantic Monthly
"This is the definitive visual chronicle of a great artist." ~Palm Beach Post
"Akira Kurosawa: Master of Cinema by Peter Cowie is the most lavishly produced and profusely illustrated volume on Akira Kurosawa ever published." ~Turner Classic Movies
"The question that must be answered is whether there is enough new material in Akira Kurosawa: Master of Cinema to justify its steep price. Is there enough new material to make it worth a purchase? The answer for any serious Kurosawa fan is an emphatic yes, not only because of the soundness of Cowie's commentary, but also because of the hundreds of gorgeous images that supplement it." ~American Cinematographer
About the Author
Peter Cowie is a film historian and the author of Louise Brooks and Joan Crawford. Formerly the international director of Variety, he now serves as consultant for the Berlin Film Festival and contributes commentaries for Criterion Collection releases. Donald Richie is the world’s foremost expert on Kurosawa and is the author of many books on Japanese culture, including The Inland Sea and The Japanese Film. Kazuko Kurosawa, the daughter of the director, is a costume designer whose credits include more than fifteen films, including Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams.
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A well-designed book, ripe with interesting photos, for those who relish Kurosawa as an icon in cinema history.
Generously illustrated with many wonderful insights, it is
a good addition to any Kurosawa fan's library. A few
points however --while discussing Drunken Angel, Cowie
states Matsunaga is "Even more addicted to liquor
than Sanaka..."I must disagree. Sanaka is the angel
of the title, drinking his patients' alcohol.
Matsunaga seems willing to give up drinking as his
redemption approaches, but after his mentor encourages
him, he must drink to 'save face'. Regarding the
same film, Cowie says Matsunaga steals a carnation
to give to his girlfriend. Actually the yakuza has a
habit of taking the flowers for his own lapel. In
this instance, as his appreciation for life has
grown, he stops to gaze for a moment at the flower,
a moment that his old boss again disrupts.
Later on the same page, Cowie compares Shimura and
Mifune's characters in The Quiet Duel. He says
Shimura, the father, tries to save his son from
death by syphilis. Actually, the father can only
provide emotional support after he finds out, but
he does nothing else. Kyoji,the son, does not seem
to "...regard the world as harsh and unforgiving."
He continues to help his patients with devotion
and care (witness the baseball glove). He is angry
about his fate, but his ability to see outside himself
allows him to save his beloved fiancee from the
waiting game he must play. Much later in the book,
during a discussion of The Hidden Fortress, Cowie states
Tahei and Makakashi "..are freed by General Rokurota Makabe."
They are not rescued, they escape on their own.
These things are small alone, together they are a bit
The text is also wonderfully informative. I've read a number of books on Kurosawa, including his own SOMETHING LIKE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Stephen Prince's exceptional THE WARRIOR'S CAMERA, and the standard survey of his films, THE FILMS OF AKIRA KUROSAWA by Donald Richie. While I would not recommend this above either the Prince or the Richie, this is nonetheless an extremely perceptive, insightful study of his work. It highlights a number of important themes in his work and provides a number of insights into his films. I personally did not care for the thematic organization of the films, grouping the contemporary films in one group, the historical films based on Japanese sources in another, and those films based on Western sources in another. I suppose it is helpful to show what various films have in common with one another, but I frankly did not get a great deal of insight from this kind of organization. The fact is that any serious student of Kurosawa's films will probably buy Donald Richie's superb book as a first book in a library. If you can own only one book on Kurosawa, Richie's book (he contributes a preface to Cowie's book, by the way, along with Martin Scorsese) is the one to get, and it is arranged chronologically. Cowie's intelligent, highly appreciative discussion transcends the format. The tone of the book is not probing; Cowie hints at personal difficulties in Kurosawa's life without any attempt to explore them further. He mentions, for instance, Kurosawa's many suicide attempts, but neither explores them in any detail nor explains the significance of them in his life. He also completely avoids discussing even by remote allusion the great rift that developed between Kurosawa and his most famous actor, Toshiro Mifune. Cowie not only does not explain the causes of their split but not only does not reveal that they experienced such a split. I do not believe that his is a shortcoming in the book. The book is in tone more of a memorial than anything. Although not wanting to paint Kurosawa as a paper saint, Cowie neither wants to cross a line of respect.
If you love the films of Akira Kurosawa this is a must-own volume. It is certainly one of the most beautiful books that I own, whether on film or art or whatever. I have been amazed that the hundredth anniversary of Kurosawa's birth has not resulted in a string of commemorative volumes. In my opinion, he belongs to the shortest imaginable list of the greatest filmmakers in the history of the art. But sometimes quality is more important than quantity and while there are no other volumes being released in his centenary, this one will more than fulfill that need.
This book takes a look at each film Kurosawa directed, starting with Sanshiro Sugata all the way to Rhapsody in August. The real meat is from the 50s and 60s. There are well written synopses of the films as well. Each film is discussed chronologically. There are some photographs of behind the scenes directing, but these are about 1/4 or so of the total.
If you or someone you know is a Kurosawa fan, then this is a great gift to yourself or that special person. I immediately covered it in a clear library style cover to protect it, but I still flip through it on frequent occasions, usually when watching a Kurosawa flick. This will likely be a collector's item one day.