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May 7, 2012

5

Photo Play: Sanshiro Sugata (1943)

by HELEN GEIB

This month on Photo Play: essential Kurosawa

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Last Week: Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Coming Next: Ikiru (1952)

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Miriam
    May 8 2012

    I’m curious why you chose a scene other than the field duel that most people would say is the most memorable. All of Kurosawa is worth seeing, of course, but why do you call this film “essential”?

  2. May 8 2012

    I believe that Akira Kurosawa is the greatest film director and filmmaker of all time, with Ozu and Mizoguchi trailing right behind him. Therefore, I also believe that most films that Kurosawa made are essential. :O)

    Sugata Sanshiro is Kurosawa’s first film and also had a sequel made, a a few years later. A couple of decades later he gave us Yojimbo and Sanjuro. :O)

  3. Miriam
    May 9 2012

    I’ve seen both Sugata Sanshiro and its sequel as well as Johnnie To’s homage Throwdown. My comprehensive Kurosawa retrospective project has taken me about half way through the Criterion box set. I’ve already seen many of his films but it’s been great to find new ones, revisit old favorites, and to see his development over time.

    I’ll grant you that most of Kurowawa’s films are essential, but I read the “essential” to mean essential among Kurosawa’s work. I was just wondering if Helen called it such only because it’s the first or if she had something else in mind.

  4. May 10 2012

    We’ll just have to wait for Helen’s response. :O)

  5. May 10 2012

    The four “essential” Kurosawas for the May Photo Play are the films I recently programmed for my film club’s movie of the month mini-retrospective. It would be hard to go wrong with four Kurosawa films, even randomly chosen, but I wanted a developing theme to guide the discussions from month to month (it didn’t really work out that way, the discussions ended up almost totally single film-centric, but that was the thought).

    I tossed around a few ideas and finally ended up taking the pedagogic approach. The selected films illustrate Kurosawa’s developing style over four decades, show his mastery of a number of very different genres, and highlight recurring themes. His three favorite actor collaborators- Shimura, Mifune, Nakadai- are each represented as well.

    So, “Sanshiro Sugata” because it’s Kurosawa’s directorial debut but not “only” because it’s his first film. It’s a fine film in its own right (despite rough treatment by the wartime censors), an exemplar of his historical dramas, and an introduction to visual hallmarks of his work like the changing camera speed and use of nature and weather to reflect characters’ emotions.

    Why this scene for the stills gallery: There’s no deep meaning behind the choice. I wanted to show something that isn’t commonly pictured (the climactic fight and the night spent in the pool are the biggies). I like this scene in the film and I like that you could look at just these pictures and spin a story from them.

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