• March is Akira Kurosawa month at Criterion. On the twenty-third, the great Japanese filmmaker would have been one hundred years old. For this centennial celebration, we will be posting trivia questions and other contests all month, and giving away a different Kurosawa poster, DVD, or Blu-ray disc every weekday.

    Today’s prompt:

    What was the first Kurosawa film you saw? Describe the experience briefly—when/where/how?

    Please respond by commenting below, and we’ll choose our favorite at the end of the day. You must leave a valid e-mail address to be eligible for the prize (Drunken Angel on DVD).

392 comments

  • By Kevin
    March 03, 2010
    11:09 AM

    Several years ago before we had kids, my wife and I were at our public library wanting to expand our cinematic horizons. We'd heard of Kurosawa by that time, and after looking through the videotape selections, settled on Rashomon. I was employed full time and in grad school part time pursuing a history degree. We both loved the movie, but what struck me most was how the story and its presentation so paralled the scholarly process of historical research. You have these accounts that agree on certain facts of an event. But then the accounts diverge, or one provides info not in the the others, or one or more directly contradict each other. Then you have to consider the person behind each account, their station, their motives, the quality of the info they report. And this is what is asked of the viewer in Rashomon. I was (and still am) deeply impressed, and this experience encouraged me to view more Kurosawa, which has led me down enriching viewing (and re-viewing) paths I might not have taken. (When the Criterion dvd was announced, it was one of a handful of times that I've acutally pre-ordered a title--Throne of Blood was another such instance.)
    Reply
  • By Sean Naito
    March 03, 2010
    11:28 AM

    My first Kurosawa experience was Yojimbo about 6 years ago. I was 18 and still fresh off of watching 'Kill Bill vol. 1' which in fact turned me on to the world of cinema and inspired me to look deeper. As I was scratching the surface then I had always known a little about Kurosawa and especially of 'Seven Samurai' but I decided to dip my fingers in a much shorter and what I thought would be a more entertaining film so I randomly picked Yojimbo from a local Hollywood video. I was impressed to say the least and shortly found out that Leone had based his 'Fistful of dollars' on it which further catapulted my obsession into film. Kurosawa,a definite gateway filmmaker. :)
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  • By J. Kyle
    March 03, 2010
    11:35 AM

    At every point in a young film-buff's life, the discovery of well-regarded films of non-American productions occurs, triggering a desire to seek out more and more highly regarded arthouse fare not well known by many of his or her peers. For me, the film responsible for starting my interest in 'Criterion Collection' titles was Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. For my 17th birthday, I had made no lavish plans for celebration; no party with any friends. Instead, I decided to rent a film I have heard much about and was curious to see. As I was watching the film in my room, I knew I was watching a cinematic cornerstone. The influence Kurosawa's film has on almost every action film following is entirely evident. As many critics point out, the concept of a group of hired hands banding together to fight an enemy stems from this film. The two things most striking about Seven Samurai to me was how well the action scenes were composed, and how engaging each character was. Seven entirely distinct characters is a lot to keep track of and devote attention to, but Kurosawa managed to do it seamlessly. Plus, his use of rain to accentuate the emotional strength of his scenes would not have been as effectively used until Blade Runner, released nearly thirty years later. When the film ended, a desire to seek out other Kurosawa films emerged, as well as a desire to discover the works of other auteurs. Since watching Seven Samurai, I have discovered many excellent films. Though had I not watched it when I did, I am unsure if my relentless pursuit of great cinema would have been as strong.
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  • By Billy R.
    March 03, 2010
    11:38 AM

    I was at a movie store, holding Breathless and Seven Samurai in each hand, trying to decide which to buy. I asked a guy working there who told me Seven Samurai "didn't blow me away." I asked him about Breathless, and he said, "I think it's french." I thanked him for his help and bought both. Good decision. I watched Seven Samurai that night with my roommates and they were all asleep before the first disc was over, but I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Kurasawa and Mifune had blown me away. (Breathless was also my first Godard experience, and oh man. I wouldn't have a girlfriend if it weren't for that movie.)
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  • By R. Yu
    March 03, 2010
    11:46 AM

    YOJIMBO I was in middle school when I was told by my older high school friend to watch Yojimbo after he heard that I really liked Sergio Leone's Fistful of Dollars. I went to the college library where I found an old VHS copy of it. At the time I wasn't very well versed in film, but even then I could see that it was the perfect pairing of samurai jideki and spaghetti western.
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  • By Brandon J.
    March 03, 2010
    11:47 AM

    I watched Rashomon alone in my home, without any prior knowledge of what it was about. I kind of expected an action movie with a little substance. Needless to say, I was blown away by the depth and insightfulness of the film. Hooked since then, but making my way through his collection slowly. Loved Ran, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, looking forward to seeing more.
    Reply
  • By Frank
    March 03, 2010
    12:36 PM

    High and Low. When: Freshman year of college. Where: Introduction to Film class. How: I'm color blind. So black and white is pretty safe territory for me. I usually enjoy b&w films a bit more for this reasons. While watching High and Low I was completely immersed in the story, loving all of the twists and turns. Then, unexpectedly, pink smoke. I only knew it was pink because the next day in class someone asked "How did he make the smoke pink?" I felt a bit betrayed, but, in the end, fell in love with Kurosawa's cinema.
    Reply
  • By Tim Sheridan
    March 03, 2010
    12:47 PM

    My father had a VHS tape of Rashoman back in the 80s. I had read the short story in high school and I was curious. I was totally blown away by every aspect of the film, which reinvented the story. I it was an early experience in what potential film had as an art form. Even on a smaller TV, the visual impact, narrative invention, and great acting blew me away. I was hooked.
    Reply
  • By Sanjiv
    March 03, 2010
    12:52 PM

    My first Kurosawa was the Seven Samurai. I first saw it when I was 8 years old. I got a VHS from the local library, mainly because I was fascinated by samurai at the time (I just thought it was cool, the idea of guys who carry around swords on their belts) and because the packaging made it sound like an action-packed flick. I watched it over three days, and I absolutely loved it. Obviously, I had never really seen a movie like it at the time. I remember trying to show in to a bunch of friends later, but they were considerably less impressed with it. Nevertheless, in the 20 years since, I think I've seen Seven Samurai another 60 or 70 times, in all different venues and formats. It's still my favorite film and a constant source of inspiration for me.
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  • By REMY PIGNATIELLO
    March 03, 2010
    01:19 PM

    I think it was Yojimbo, very lately (only 2 years ago), thanks to your reissue. I find it really cool, plus, I had seen again Leone's Western just before, so it was a lot of fun catching the references between one another. But Mifune really stunned. I mean, he's just so cool in the movie, being the guy in the middle who's just having fun of the clans. He's awesome, really. and Kurosawa just catch this awesomeness very simply, yet very greatly. I still think Yojimbo is a very simple film, very easy to enjoy, and immediatly fun. Probably one of the Kurosawa I prefer because of this fun.
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  • By John
    March 03, 2010
    01:32 PM

    Hidden Fortress. About 5 years ago I watched an interview with George Lucas and he listed that film as one of his inspirations for Star Wars, so when I saw Hidden Fortress was coming on IFC I knew I had to watch it. over the years I found and watched all but 3 of Kurosawa's films. Criterion's Seven Samurai was the first one I bought, and currently own 3 dvd editions of it.
    Reply
  • By German G.
    March 03, 2010
    01:55 PM

    Seven samurai, I remember I saw very late in the night in a public channel, I got impressed the fight scenes, serenity of the samurai. How Kurosawa took from the Western films and vice versa. Great shadows creating a dark atmosphere that was much better than colors. Always serious characters showing us (western) the philosophy of the Bushido. Great Movie!
    Reply
  • By Matt
    March 03, 2010
    03:50 PM

    Yojimbo-I was a freshman in High school and I traded a bootleg VHS copy with a friend. Amazingly, I traded for some Troma schlock! Since then I've seen nearly all of Kurosawa's work--and I don't even recall what the name of the film I traded it for was! Can't wait for the Yojimbo/Sanjuro Blu Ray!
    Reply
  • By Michael Austin
    March 03, 2010
    04:59 PM

    The first I ever saw was Throne of Blood at the Film Forum in New York City. I had a friend convince me to go with him to their Samurai Film Festival. I'd never seen a samurai film, especially not a Kurosawa film. After I saw that I came back to every Kurosawa showing they had left during their festival: The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Ran. I caught most of the non-Kurosawa films as well. I was blown away by Kurosawa's films and the actors in them. After that I discovered my love of both Kurosawa and Japanese cinema. I also discovered what it was like to live off of Ramen and PB and J for that month since tickets were $10 bucks a pop and I must have seen at least 12 different movies. Totally worth it.
    Reply
  • By dan kinem
    March 03, 2010
    05:32 PM

    the very first kurosawa movie i ever saw, strangely enough was kagemusha. it was in 7th grade, i had been wanting to see some kurosawa since the beginning of that year, particularly seven samurai, but noticed this was playing on tv. it was probably fox movies or ifc or something. the visuals and scope of the movie struck me and stayed with me to this day. i have since seen many kurosawa films, but don't want to revisit this one quite yet, i am still letting it sit in my head. it was one of the first foreign films i saw, too.
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  • By Christopher R
    March 03, 2010
    05:44 PM

    Dreams - A friend showed me the film. It was late at night and I was tired and didn't know what to expect. I fell asleep. But since then, I have become "awake" to Kurosawa films and have now seen them all. (And love Dreams!)
    Reply
  • By Julie
    March 03, 2010
    05:45 PM

    Scandal - VHS My boyfriend was a huge Kurosawa fan and sent me a few of his films on VHS. I watched it on a semi-working in China, where I was at the time...
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  • By Lee Michael Geller
    March 03, 2010
    06:26 PM

    STRAY DOG. Borrowed the VHS from the Phoenix Public Library. Absolutely loved it and then began hitting up the local video store for whatever titles they could get; Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Ran, etc. Saw Dreams in the theaters. I could stay up all night watching Kurosawa.
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  • By Colin Morgan
    March 06, 2010
    07:02 PM

    My first (and at the moment, only, though that will change soon) Kurosawa is High and Low. And, oh my God, the film might have have been almost 2 1/2 hours, but it felt more like five minutes went by after I was done watching it. That's how absorbed I ws in the film, and I've only experienced that with very few films.
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  • By food coma panda
    March 11, 2010
    02:13 PM

    Yojimbo. Sixteen years old. Going on forty, though. My parents' living room. PBS. A Saturday afternoon. With my fourteen-year-old brother. Then, Throne of Blood. Rashomon. Dodes-ka-den. Ran. Seven Samurai. And everything else.
    Reply