Celebrating ‘The Emperor,’ 100 Years Later

Yesterday marked the 100’s anniversary of the birth of the man considered by many to be the greatest, most influential film director of all time: Akira Kurosawa.

Affectionately (or fearfully, perhaps) known as “The Emperor” on his sets, his visual style, thematic ideas, and absolute mastery of the medium profoundly influenced countless generations of filmmakers. Spielberg once referred to him as “the pictorial Shakespeare of our time.” To Martin Scorsese, he was known simply as “the master,” whose “influence on filmmakers throughout the entire world is so profound as to be almost incomparable.”

The last several days have produced countless homages to the great director. (My personal favorite is probably the “Kurosawa Birthday Month Contest” put on by the good folks at Criterion, though that may be a bit motivate by self-interest.) Over at The Guardian (UK), there’s a fantastic “summary” post of Essential Kurosawa Films, featuring ten of his greatest works, and bolstered by a number of wonderful YouTube clips. (A Kurosawa list is something I have never had the nerve to attempt, for fear that I might be forced to justify my exclusions — an impossible task.)

Here is a YouTube clip Criterion’s trailer for my “personal favorite” Kurosawa, which was sadly (if thoughtfully) left off the Guardian’s list (Kagemusha is described by many a a mere “test run” for his more famous Ran, but the breathtaking visuals, epic battle sequences, haunting score, and the complex themes of perception vs. reality that Kurosawa explored in so many of his films have left it firmly ensconced at the top of my list. If I were making a list, that is. Which I’m not.)

Joseph Susanka

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Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. Currently residing in Lander, Wyoming -- "where Stetsons meet Birkenstocks" -- he is a columnist for Crisis Magazine and the Patheos Catholic portal.

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