AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

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oldsheperd
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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#76 Post by oldsheperd » Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:33 am

I believe the "nuanced" acting referred to by Caged Horse is supposed to be that way. The acting style Kurosawa likes in many of his films is purposefully a reference to Noh theater.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#77 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 10, 2009 11:00 am

oldsheperd wrote:The acting style Kurosawa likes in many of his films is purposefully a reference to Noh theater.
How many Noh plays have you seen performed? The acting style I see in Kurosawa's films generally has little resemblance to any Noh play I've seen.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#78 Post by oldsheperd » Thu Sep 10, 2009 11:25 am

I haven't seen any Noh plays performed but I believe Throne of Blood is at least one film that potrays the Noh style.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#79 Post by Caged Horse » Thu Sep 10, 2009 11:31 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:
oldsheperd wrote:The acting style Kurosawa likes in many of his films is purposefully a reference to Noh theater.
How many Noh plays have you seen performed? The acting style I see in Kurosawa's films generally has little resemblance to any Noh play I've seen.
Looking at 'Lobsterman' (General Yamagata) in Kagemusha, I gain an inkling into what Noh theatre might be like if Joel Schumacher were Japanese. :wink:

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#80 Post by oldsheperd » Thu Sep 10, 2009 11:37 am

I may be confusing Noh and Kabuki but I have read in quite a few places that Kurosawa likes to blend traditional Japanese theater acting into his actors' performances.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#81 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 10, 2009 11:48 am

oldsheperd wrote:I haven't seen any Noh plays performed but I believe Throne of Blood is at least one film that potrays the Noh style.
Throne of Blood has certain visual elements that evoke Noh -- and parts of Isuzu Yamada's performance (she would have been the only cast member with a classical artistic training of any sort) may be Noh-inspired. Not much real trace of Noh elsewhere in AK's work.
oldsheperd wrote:II may be confusing Noh and Kabuki but I have read in quite a few places that Kurosawa likes to blend traditional Japanese theater acting into his actors' performances.
One DOES read this, but I don't think it is particularly true.Both Noh and Kabuki involve intensive specialized training. The only actors who can carry off performances that bear any resemblance to the real things are ones who received appropriate training (typicaly people who have crossed over to film, at least temporarily). While Mifune was a phenomenal film actor, even he could not handle kabuki or noh style. Other Kurosawa stars were even less likely to be able to handle this. It would be like asking a rock star to take the role of Don Giovanni (in Mozart's opera). Even if attempted, not much resemblance to the real thing.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#82 Post by oldsheperd » Thu Sep 10, 2009 11:51 am

I remember specifically reading though that the acting in many Kurosawa films is stylized in some sort of Japanese acting tradition. Movements are very restrained and controlled and emotion is over the top.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#83 Post by Sloper » Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:02 pm

I think one thing Stephen Prince talks about is the occasional tendency for actors to 'fix' their expressions, as if trying to emulate the masks worn by noh (or kabuki?) actors. I think this may have been in the Ran commentary - easy to see how such a comment might apply to Nakadai's performance. But I guess that's a bit like Mariah Carey borrowing a few tricks from Cecilia Bartoli, more of a 'reference' to the theatrical form than an attempt to imitate it.

Glad to see Dersu Uzala didn't make it into this set. Would be great to see this get the two-disc treatment in 2010. It's been in my VHS kevyip for many years and I only got around to it the other week, but I enjoyed it more than almost any other Kurosawa I've seen. It would certainly be more deserving of revival and re-evaluation than Dodes'kaden.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#84 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:09 pm

oldsheperd wrote:I remember specifically reading though that the acting in many Kurosawa films is stylized in some sort of Japanese acting tradition. Movements are very restrained and controlled and emotion is over the top.
While emotion is frequently over the top in Kurosawa's films, movements never strike me as especially restrained -- not more so than most other films (of every sort) made by directors of his era.

Some of the earliest stars of jidaigeki (action films set iat at a time prior to the Meiji era) had a background in kabuki -- and their legacy led to a particular type of performance tradition within that type of movie -- that had diverged quite a bit from traditional kabuki well before Kurosawa started making films. So kabuki would have influenced Kurosawa's historical films (at a considerable) remove -- just as it influenced the films of his colleagues. Western writers tend to attribute characteristics to Kurosawa that were relatively generic.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#85 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:15 pm

Sloper wrote:I think one thing Stephen Prince talks about is the occasional tendency for actors to 'fix' their expressions, as if trying to emulate the masks worn by noh (or kabuki?) actors. I think this may have been in the Ran commentary - easy to see how such a comment might apply to Nakadai's performance. But I guess that's a bit like Mariah Carey borrowing a few tricks from Cecilia Bartoli, more of a 'reference' to the theatrical form than an attempt to imitate it.
Typically masks are a feature only of Noh (though puppets's faces in bunraku might be viewed as mask-like, obviously). Even in Noh, only two or so performers at a time (at most) wear masks.

I would say that Setsuko Hara (in Ozu's Late Spring and Naruse's Sound of the Mountain) gives a more convincing effect of Noh masking than anything found in Kurosawa -- with all due respeect to the wonderful Mr. Nakadai (I think your Mariah Carey-Cecilia Bartoli analogy is not a bad one, btw). ;~}

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#86 Post by Sloper » Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:22 pm

Yes, Hara in Late Spring is a real masterclass of fixed-expression acting, but unlike nearly all of Kurosawa's performers she makes it seem totally natural and life-like.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#87 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:31 pm

Sloper wrote:Yes, Hara in Late Spring is a real masterclass of fixed-expression acting, but unlike nearly all of Kurosawa's performers she makes it seem totally natural and life-like.
Naruse (following Kawabata obviously) actually gets a real Noh mask into the picture in Sound of the Mountain.

I was surprised, when I last watched Late Spring, at how much of the time Hara did NOT exhibit mask-like behavior -- and that it was often the transformation from animated expressions to mask-like ones that helped make the latter so memorable. The opposite effect can be seen in Repast
SpoilerShow
when (right before the end) she meets her husband on the street and he happens to say exactly the right sort of thing (and not what she feared and expected).

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#88 Post by Sloper » Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:46 pm

She has a wonderful way of being caught looking down, slightly distressed, then suddenly looking up - and in that swift movement her composure returns, and she plasters the smile back on. Again, though, it doesn't seem like artifice so much as politeness, a concern not to distress the person she's addressing. There's a lot of this in Early Summer, too, but I'm ashamed to say I get these films mixed up sometimes...

My impression is the Kurosawa is much less interested in these nuanced transitions of facial expression, and much more in the bodily gestures - even with someone as subtle as Takashi Shimura, the performance often seems to be about the chin-stroking, the inclinations of the head, the crouching down, etc. Hence, I suppose, the comparisons to theatre, though I'm sure the constant references to noh are attempts to cover ignorance. (They certainly were in my MA application - the course included a 'Shakespeare in performance' module, so I wheeled out Kurosawa, noh, etc. Ended up writing about Welles instead.)

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#89 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:50 pm

I don't know about the Noh elements in Kurosawa's movies (certainly everything up to Red Beard, excluding Throne, is realist in tone and style, so explicitly Noh elements would be out of place), but a general of the opposing side in Kagemusha, when hearing (belatedly) of Shingen's death, performs a piece of a Noh play.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#90 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 10, 2009 12:57 pm

Sloper wrote:My impression is the Kurosawa is much less interested in these nuanced transitions of facial expression, and much more in the bodily gestures - even with someone as subtle as Takashi Shimura, the performance often seems to be about the chin-stroking, the inclinations of the head, the crouching down, etc. Hence, I suppose, the comparisons to theatre, though I'm sure the constant references to noh are attempts to cover ignorance. (They certainly were in my MA application - the course included a 'Shakespeare in performance' module, so I wheeled out Kurosawa, noh, etc. Ended up writing about Welles instead.)
I think a lot of these characteristics in Kurosawa probably date back to the pre-talkie cinema in Japan.

Kabuki and Noh (evenmoreso) has all sorts of extremely stylized movements that have very specific meanings -- but ordinary moviegoers would not have had any clue to what these would have meant (had they been used). And since many of these stylized actions were (and are) used to make up for a lack of props and scenery (and fancy stage machinery), they would serve little use in cinema (other than in documentation of live performances).

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#91 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 10, 2009 1:03 pm

Mr_sausage wrote:I don't know about the Noh elements in Kurosawa's movies (certainly everything up to Red Beard, excluding Throne, is realist in tone and style, so explicitly Noh elements would be out of place), but a general of the opposing side in Kagemusha, when hearing (belatedly) of Shingen's death, performs a piece of a Noh play.
An important chunk of Mizoguchi's 47 Loyal Ronin takes place during a Noh performance as well. Use of excerpts of traditional performance for setting (and atmospere) is very different from trying to get modern film actors to imitate aspects of traditional performance practice themselves. Both Mizoguchi and Naruse did very interesting things with regard to traditional performance (especially during WW2, when this was a way to avoid making overt propaganda). Not sure how Kurosawa's Tiger Tail fits into this (as this is one of the few AK films I have yet to see).

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#92 Post by Jun-Dai » Thu Sep 10, 2009 1:58 pm

Davidspector wrote:I don't really understand this as a marketing decision. If you love Kurosawa enough to lay out this kind of dough, you no doubt already have all (or most) of the Criterion Kurosawas, so the set is redundant, save for the four or five items as yet unreleased. So WHO is going to purchase this set? I suppose the same might be asked about the giant Janus set - was this a big seller? It would seem to me that it might be for some one who had seen these films theatrically, liked them a lot, had a DVD player, but had never bought a Criterion disc. An unlikely combination. How well did the Janus set do? If quite well, maybe there is a market for the Kurosawa set.

For the record, I have all the Criterion Kurosawas and would duplicate in Blu-ray in a second.
I think you're sort of assuming that everyone behaves like you. For starters there are people that may have all the CC Kurosawa's but would think nothing of spending more money on having a coffee-table binder of his films. Possibly the largest potential market for this are folk that would give this as a gift to their, e.g., film-student nephew. I can think of a few people this would make a gift for if I were so extravagant as to spend that kind of money on a gift. And then there's someone like me, who might be interested because they don't really care about owning the extras and haven't already bought more than one or two Kurosawa titles (just for the record, I won't be buying this, but more because I don't want to spend a lot of money or own more things).

I'm guessing that most of the people that will buy this won't really care that this contains a few titles that the regular collection doesn't, won't really care about the quality of various editions that are already out there, etc. Most people (film enthusiasts included) just aren't that into DVDs, and when they see this set in the store they'll just start drooling. If nothing else, someone that has only seen 3-4 Kurosawa films and loved them would see this set as a challenge.

Is this a good marketing decision? I can't say, but Criterion has all their existing sales and the sales of the Janus set to guide them in this decision. Doesn't mean it's a good decision, but it seems at least plausible to me.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#93 Post by oldsheperd » Thu Sep 10, 2009 2:15 pm

For me specifically, this set is wonderful. I'm a fan of Kurosawa and I owned most of his CC stuff but I sold it all a couple of years ago. I've already listened to all the commentaries that come with most of the sets and like I've said before I didn't find the "It's Wonderful to Create" series to be absolutely essential. This is actually a good primer for folks though since the Stephen Prince book is excellent. You can get pretty good insights into Kurosawa and his films from books and many essays that are online. Unless you are either illiterate or just want everything fed to you at the touch of a button in the form of supplements, I don't see what all the hoopla is about. Buying these titles individually, even buying them used, will probably put you over 300 bucks so...

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#94 Post by zedz » Thu Sep 10, 2009 3:55 pm

Jun-Dai wrote:Is this a good marketing decision? I can't say, but Criterion has all their existing sales and the sales of the Janus set to guide them in this decision. Doesn't mean it's a good decision, but it seems at least plausible to me.
I think we have to assume that the Essential Art House release was a big success: it's pretty much sold out (apart from Criterion's own site); it's been spun off into an entire line, including further 'redundant' box sets; and they're taking the same approach with Kurosawa. If this pays the bills, then Criterion will be able to afford to put out all those obscure Ang Lee films everybody keeps demanding.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#95 Post by swo17 » Thu Sep 10, 2009 4:05 pm

Wasn't Benjamin Button supposed to pay all of the bills? How many bills do these guys have?

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#96 Post by oldsheperd » Thu Sep 10, 2009 4:16 pm

I'm waiting for the Michael Bay Criterion Blu-Ray mega set housed in an AR-15 painted like the American Flag. Git R' Done!

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#97 Post by zedz » Thu Sep 10, 2009 4:17 pm

swo17 wrote:Wasn't Benjamin Button supposed to pay all of the bills? How many bills do these guys have?
Koko pays the bills. She's really that smart.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#98 Post by knives » Thu Sep 10, 2009 4:28 pm

swo17 wrote:Wasn't Benjamin Button supposed to pay all of the bills? How many bills do these guys have?
They have to pay for that great stereo on The Human Condition somehow.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#99 Post by atcolomb » Thu Sep 10, 2009 10:01 pm

Sloper wrote:I think one thing Stephen Prince talks about is the occasional tendency for actors to 'fix' their expressions, as if trying to emulate the masks worn by noh (or kabuki?) actors. I think this may have been in the Ran commentary - easy to see how such a comment might apply to Nakadai's performance. But I guess that's a bit like Mariah Carey borrowing a few tricks from Cecilia Bartoli, more of a 'reference' to the theatrical form than an attempt to imitate it.

Glad to see Dersu Uzala didn't make it into this set. Would be great to see this get the two-disc treatment in 2010. It's been in my VHS kevyip for many years and I only got around to it the other week, but I enjoyed it more than almost any other Kurosawa I've seen. It would certainly be more deserving of revival and re-evaluation than Dodes'kaden.
I did ask about Dersu Uzala because they did release it on laserdisc and i did get a reply from Jon Mulvaney and he says they have no plans to release it. The original negative is in bad shape and does need a major restoration so i hope somebody does because all the dvd versions out there are not the best...to me the Kino release is the best looking but is not in a anamorphic format.

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Re: AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa

#100 Post by Summerslam2000 » Fri Sep 11, 2009 2:26 pm

Dersu has a brilliant region 2 realease by Artifical Eye.Hopefully for people in the US Criterion will work from this DVD print which is in great condition.I feel its Kurosawa's best film.I hope Ran (with the optional english dub) and Dreams is included in this boxset.

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