Kindness & Selflessness: The Doctrine of Kurosawa Akira


Kurosawa was once the standard of filmmaking. In the glorious days of Hong Kong martial arts cinema, the films of King Hu and John Woo were measured against his films. Westerns were another recipients of his influence, John Sturges turned Seven Samurai (1954) into The Magnificent Seven (1960), and the Spaghetti Western classic A Fistful of Dollars (1964) was actually an unauthorised remake of Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961). George Lucas acknowledged the influence of The Hidden Fortress (1958) in Star Wars (1977), which may be viewed as a Western taking the guise of a sci-fi film.

It's not my intention just to show these influences. Kurosawa may have a different rhythm than our times, but his breath and depth is yet to be surpassed. His films retain the special position as our moral beacon, as they were then.

The hero of Sanshiro Sugata (1943) has been picking fights until he's taught a lesson on the true nature of martial arts. The doctor of The Quiet Duel (1949) chooses to be celibate after catching syphilis while operating on a wounded soldier. Seven Samurai (1954) give their lives, not for glory nor riches, to protect a village of peasants. The entrepreneur of High and Low (1963) throws his life's work away to save his chauffeur's son. The Choice of Hercules not only falls on these characters but to us viewers as well.

In Kurosawa's films, not only the samurai follow the warrior's code. In his modern dramas there are characters who try so hard to be upright and overcome every temptation. They may end up with nothing but the moral ground they gain is worth everything. Kurosawa's films are more than entertainment, they're also lessons to make you a better person.

Kurosawa burst into the scene when Japan was undergoing reconstruction after WWII. Not only material comfort was to be restored, but the integrity of the Japanese people as well, so that Japan would be respected after recovering its prosperity.

These films are like street lights on the long, dark road. I guess this is the right time to switch them on again.


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