By Tiffany Unscripted
What if I tell you that there is one director who is termed as “The Master” by many contributors of cult classics like Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg?
The top-notch standards set by Akira Kurosawa in the world of film direction are still considered as the touchstones for dissecting cutting-edge trends in the field of filmmaking. His movies have been turned into successful American remakes many times, but no one could ever frame a shot like Kurosawa.
The Technical Aspect of Framing
The most famous work of Kurosawa was Rashomon (1950), which served to provide him with a strong foundation in the world of cinema. This internationally acclaimed work was followed by gems like Yojimbo, Seven Samurai, and Throne of Blood. The most eye-catching features of all those movies were the framing, camera movement, and composition. Kurosawa used the best equipment for the video and sound quality available in the market.
Rashomon was one of the earliest remakes of Kurosawa’s work in which he framed his characters to look primitive. He violated the rule of third and focused on his masterful direction. He claimed that if the subject matter is appealing to the audience, it falls apart several styles of framing. The changed aspect ratio in the movie is surely not an error, but an attempt to correlate it from the perspective of the audience. The same approached was mapped by John Sturges while remaking it in 1960 with the same name.
The Subtle Art of Editing
Kurosawa was a master editor. He introduced an elusive and refined style of editing the scenes during movements that grasp the attention of the audience. This smart editing can be witnessed in the final battle of Seven Samurai (1954) and the remakes like The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Magnificent Seven (2016). There is always a clear starting, middle, and ending frame of the scene. There are composing moments that tell a huge story within a blink. For example, the inner anger of the character is shown through some fire in the background and unease is shown through hustling troops. The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984), the official American remake of Yojimbo (1961) adopts the same pattern of editing.
The Appreciation of Movement
Kurosawa had an innate understanding of movement. It is implicitly claimed in his movies that the most attention-grabbing element in any frame is neither the light nor the mise-en-scène, but the movement of those elements. In order to create the impact of a comic or intense situation, the moving objects are the center of attention. That is why Kurosawa never made his characters stagnant. Moreover, there is a great admiration of weather and the climatic situation in his movies. There is always some fog, smoke, rain, or snow in the background which adds a lot to the meanings of situation. In the movies like Omega Doom (1996) and Last Man Standing (1996), Albert Pyun and Walter Hill followed the same trend.
There is a weird perception that elements like color, silence, music, and lighting are boring. However, Kurosawa took this as fun. Especially in samurai genre movies, Kurosawa created the benchmarks for the sci-fi and western epics. Consider the masterpiece of The Seven Samurai (1954). The same plot structure and the aforementioned elements were mapped in the 1960 American version of the movie, which are transformed into the language of the Old West.
The Focus on Plot and Story Line
Although it’s not official, A Bug's Life by Pixar was loosely based on Seven Samurai where even the direction of camera, context development, and even the expressions of the characters are matching. Even after five decades and the evolution of cinema, the central conflicts introduced by Kurosawa were the same, i.e. a vulnerable group of people in a village hire some powerful warriors for protection. The same narrative was followed by Ramesh Sippy in the Indian cult classic entitled Sholay (1975).
In short, it is the depth of the script in which Kurosawa focused the most. In one of the last interviews, Kurosawa revealed his secret sauce to the immaculate direction which was based on writing screenplays, developing patience, and reading literature. From his perspective, the screenplay of a movie is much different and hence more important than narrated story.
Tiffany Unscripted has been the Managing Editor of Your Film Review for over two years at Occhi Magazine. She manages a small team of writers that cover all genres of movies, including writing featured articles on trending topics. In addition to writing, they cover live events, such as film premieres and screenings in Cleveland, Las Vegas, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Phoenix, and Silver Springs.
She especially enjoys the opportunity to meet emerging talent who enjoy sharing their passion, journey, challenges, and success with our readers. You can learn more about Your Film Review at OcchiMagazine.com.