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Something Like An Autobiography Paperback – May 12, 1983

4.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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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."
--"Variety
"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: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Purchased used - good from Blue Cloud Books for $0.94 plus $3.99 shipping. Very happy with the condition of the book. The Kindle edition seems a good price at $9.99. but I prefer the actual book in hand.

The book is an autobiography of sorts written in 1982, in the waning years of Kurosawa's life and career. It seems it was dictated to another person since it follows a train of thought progression. Either that or Kurosawa penned it this way. Either way, there is a purity to the storytelling that feels as if the reader is sitting across from the director, conversing over tea.

A lot of the book focuses on his early life, and the reader empathizes greatly with the young Kurosawa. There was much tragedy in his young life, both within his family, but also with the nation of Japan during the years leading up to and including the war. Much of his early career was spent trying to work on and create good films while appeasing the Japanese censors. Then post war, the American military was censoring the films. The guy couldn't win!

A lot of the book also praises a lot of the directors, actors, and staff that Kurosawa worked for or worked with. He gives somber praise to his predecessors, especially his mentor, Kajiro Yamamoto. Kurosawa is very self deprecating at times, looking back and considering his actions at the time or decisions he made in his youth. But with those he admired, he gives credit where credit is due.

Which is not to say this is a look back in regret. Instead Kurosawa touches on times, events, and emotions from the past. His laments are brief and heartfelt. In a few chapters he admits that he had a fiery temper, so he often writes about regret at letting his anger get the better of him.
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