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Beyond Swords and Samurai: Another Look at the Films of Kurosawa

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When Kurosawa Akira (1910–1998) was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1989 Academy Awards, the montage of images presented from his films consisted primarily of large-scale action scenes from his jidaigeki (historical dramas). This common view of Kurosawa's artistry neglects to give equal weight to his masterful presentation of "smaller" moments—moments which are no less monumental. Looking at the span of Kurosawa's 50-year career in the cinema (from 1943–1993), we can see how he was able to produce moments of quiet epiphany which often remain in the mind of the viewer long after the thrill of the battle has passed. To counterbalance the spectacular fighting scenes, Kurosawa treated us to bittersweet moments of celebration and of a "trickster's" refusal to give up in the face of authority, even in the face of death. These complimentary and interlocking modes help us understand Kurosawa's cinematic universe.
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Keywords: 50-year career; Kurosawa Akira; cinematic universe; films; historical dramas; jidaigeki

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Case Western Reserve University

Publication date: 2002-03-01

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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