• Congratulations to yesterday’s winners, Matt V and Kyle! Matt V’s Kurosawa-related anagram was:

    Kagemusha = A Huge Mask

    Kyle’s was:

    Rashomon = Sham, or no?

    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 prize every weekday.

    Today’s prompt:

    Among filmmakers working today, who can best be described as the heir to Kurosawa’s legacy, and why?

    Please respond to this prompt by commenting below, and we’ll choose our favorite tomorrow. You must leave a valid e-mail address to be eligible for the prize (High and Low on DVD).

94 comments

  • By Joe
    March 11, 2010
    01:15 AM

    IF YOUR ANSWER IS "NOBODY" THEN WHY ANSWER?! ITS ALREADY BEEN SAID. JUST PICK THE CLOSEST ONE, SOMEONE CAN ALWAYS BE SECOND. Takashi Miike His ability to transcend genre, to take his contemporary surroundings and infuse them in whatever he is working on (eg. horror, epics, period pieces, even childrens stories) and his ability to influence the cinema(and world) around him. Like Kurosawa, he doesn't just exist, he allows you to exist with him.
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  • By geoffrey
    March 11, 2010
    01:28 AM

    Mel Gibson! but don't be upset; most heirs to the throne are inbred. Mel Gibson makes epic historical-like movies, paints with racial slurs and both have done Shakespeare. Ransom=High and Low / Man without a Face=Red Beard .
    Reply
  • By Dan E
    March 11, 2010
    01:38 AM

    It's difficult to come up with a proper response to a question like this. Certainly Kurosawa is one of the all time masters of his craft. But to say that there is no one out there deserving of his legacy is to willfully forget any number of genuinely great filmmakers working today. To say that there is no heir to Kurosawa is to neglect the current elder statesmen like Scorsese, Coppola, and Zhang Yimou. To say that is to refute the talents of Michel Gondry, Bong Joon Ho, and Jafar Panahi. Those of you who say that Kurosawa's legacy will die with him forget the innumberable wonderful filmmakers who do a variation on what he does everyday. Kurosawa's legacy is one of both breadth and depth. He was able to work in a number of genres, telling stories both great and small. He made movies about men and communities. In this way, his successor is fellow Criterion director David Fincher. Fincher's debut took place firmly in the studio realm with Alien 3, where he made his aesthetic very clear. He continued to develop his personal style with more studio projects, like Se7en and Fight Club, all while dabbling in genre (detective stories, science fiction). As his career has progressed, his scope has grown. The intimacy of The Game has become the broad view of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. All the while, Fincher has taken the time to look at the lives of men and how they react to circumstances. Fight Club takes a look at the development of a hyper-masculine society and the woman who out-mans the men. Throw in a lot of black humor, and it sounds a lot like Yojimbo to me. Benjamin Button is the story of a man whose very nature makes him acutely aware of his own mortality. Sounds at least a little like Ikiru. Both Fincher and Kurosawa create unmatched images of beauty with their cameras. The rain drenched days and nights of Se7en reflect the bleakness of the setting until its ending, just as the rain of Rashomon reflects the pessimism of its characters until its ending. There are many worthy successors to the legacy of Kurosawa, but David Fincher is the most apt choice.
    Reply
  • By Geoffrey Stebbins
    March 11, 2010
    02:20 AM

    Wow. Christopher Nolan. Action movies and film noir. Plus an early breakout film that plays heavily on the theme of individual perspective. (Memento/Rashomon)
    Reply
  • By Andrew
    March 11, 2010
    04:57 AM

    Based on the fact that he worked with Kurosawa toward the end of his career and directed After the Rain (Ame Agaru) using his screenplay, I would vote for Takashi Koizumi as being the one to whom Akira Kurosawa passed the torch.
    Reply
  • By Daniel Kroenke
    March 11, 2010
    08:07 AM

    Rather than looking for similarities in style, I would look for a director who continues Kurosawas legacy of a "humanistic cinema" as film critic and historian David Thomson put it in his introduction to "Ikiru" at the Berlin Film Festival in February. While almost every film deals with the human condition somehow, Kurosawa dug deep into ethical questions concerning human dignity both in temporary and historical settings. A director who shares not only the same cultural background, but got to know the Japanese studio system and started working at Shochiku studios when Ozu was still active there, is Yoji Yamada. He learned how to do those popular, classic Japanese family dramas and comedies there. Much, much later in his successful career he went to the same studios Kurosawa had worked at and created his well-know samurai-trilogy (Twilight Samurai, 2002; The Hidden Blade, 2004: Love and Honor, 2006), only to make those movies in the same humanistic tradition, but with a very modern approach of depicting the decline of the Japanese warrior class. Yamadas latest films, shown at this years Berlinale, mark a return to contemporary Japan, but the theme of human dignity stays. "Otouto /About Her Brother)" tells the story of a widowed elderly mother and her younger troublesome brother, who she takes responsibilty for, even if it means her financial bankruptcy. The brother finally lies in death bed, ill with stomach cancer like the Tokyo bureaucrat in "Ikiru". The other film shown at the Berlinale was "Kyoto Story" is half romance, half documentary, the latter one describing the life in Daiei shopping street, after the famous Daiei studios - were Rashomon and Ugetsu were filmed in the 50s - were shot down. The (mostly rotten) state the city community is in, is another of Kurosawas more subtle examined topics, e.g. the swamp-likeness in after-war Tokyo ("Drunken Angel", "Ikiru"). But if you watch Yoji Yamadas latest films you get the feeling - nothing film scientific in this remark - that those are in the best tradition of Kurosawas humanistic ideas and questions and might have well been written by him.
    Reply
  • By Tomek
    March 11, 2010
    10:03 AM

    Zhang Yimou is the most obvious choice, but since he was already mentioned I'd say Peter Weir is the man. While he's not as prolific nor influential filmmaker as Kurosawa, just as the Australian always puts the individual on pedestal. Mosquito Coast, Dead Poets Society, Fearless, Truman Show, Master and Commander - whether it's historical, high-budget cinema or modest contemporary movie, it's always deeply human story about essential values and man's struggle with the bounds put on him by government, television, family or by himself.
    Reply
  • By Alexander Bucsis
    March 11, 2010
    10:15 AM

    Granted, if ever there was a filmmaker to surpass Akira Kurosawa, it wouldn't be one inhabiting today's cinematic landscape. Yet countless directors flock to Kurosawa's endless well of beauty and knowledge, taking from it the tools to mark in ways both subtle and pronounced a distinctive place in the annals of cinema. What Kurosawa represents, as Takeshi Kitano put it, is "the ideal definition of cinema: a succession of perfect images." For me, one film springs to mind as attaining this level of accomplishment in recent years: Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood. In that film, every frame is a marvel in itself. Perhaps because he takes after Robert Altman––himself an ardent admirer of Kurosawa––that Paul Thomas Anderson reflects the Japanese master more clearly and vibrantly than any other working filmmaker. The rich imagery and adventurous camerawork of his often sprawling tales boil down to the likewise simplest and most complex of all nature's aspects: human interaction. And much like Kurosawa, Anderson's films show the optimism of human relations overcoming the impossibility of human relations. It is true that Anderson is still developing his skills, but judging by his filmic progression thus far, he inhabits his specific track all by himself.
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  • By Green Rahman
    March 11, 2010
    12:30 PM

    I don't think that to carry a legacy one has to be just like that. So I don't think Brian De Palma is carrying Hitchcock's legacy just because he makes 'hitchcockian' movies or Terry Gilliam is carrying Fellini's legacy just because his films are 'felinesque'. It goes much deeper than that. To be an heir to a legacy is to digest the 'ideas' of the filmmaker that he so densely packs into his films from whose DNA strand an entire dinosaur can be made. Films are the ambers that carries 'ideas'. Ingmar Bergman said that he makes utilitarian products that, just like tables and chairs, should be useful to people. So Satyajit Ray was carrying Renoir's legacy and Abbas Kiarostami is carrying Satyajit Ray's. But there were many others whom Renoir inspired including Kurosawa. So there are several filmmakers that are heir to Kurosawa's legacy but talent like that is very very rare. Steven Spielberg and Hayao Miyazaki (whom Donald Richie calls 'that cartoonist fellow') comes to mind. Kurosawa would be proud of them.
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  • By tenderfoot
    March 11, 2010
    01:08 PM

    Just about everyone, no one can avoid being directly influenced, or at least secondarily influenced by techniques or style of storytelling used by Kurosawa. Take for instance multiple cameras capturing one scene. And what action movie doesn’t have slow-motion shots interspersed with real time shots, inspired by ‘Seven Samurai’. Almost becoming cliché now, modern moves tend to have extreme weather as a reflection of the emotions on screen, think ‘Shawshank Redemption’, or any romantic movie. Now, needless to say no one has ever matched the master, but everyone has taken a jab at it. Endless is the credit modern film owes to the ‘sensei’ Akira Kurosawa.
    Reply
  • By Connor Warriner
    March 11, 2010
    01:23 PM

    I'd have to say John Woo. In his earlier days, he was an assistant director at Shaw Studios just as Kurosawa was at Toho in his early days. Where Rashomon became an basically the first international Japanese success, The Killer became Hong Kong's first real international success. Not to mention the parallels that exist between many of Chow Yun Fat's characters and many of Toshiro Mifune's He had a few wishy-washy outings later (Face/Off, Windtalkers, Paycheck, etc.) and started slowing down, but came back with epic "Red Cliff," just as Kurosawa slowed after Dodes'kaden and came back with epics Kagemusha and Ran. Their careers share a ton of similarities. If not the heir to Kurosawa's legacy, Woo has Kurosawa's soul.
    Reply
  • By Russ Brown
    March 11, 2010
    01:53 PM

    I think I would have to go with Ridley Scott. He is by no means the artist that Kurosawa was (but who is? or ever will be for that matter). They both struggle with studio intervention, feature painterly compositions, many of their best films are historic, and both have reputations of dominating their film sets. The big difference is that when Ridley Scott attempts something outside of his safety zone he tends to fail while Kurosawa could make a great film out any story.
    Reply
  • By Andy Johnson
    March 11, 2010
    02:23 PM

    This is a particularly tough question. Nearest I can figure, though, might be the Coen Brothers. Assuming the two of them counts as one directior. They are responsible for a variety of films both original and from other sources, like books and the like. They have explored several genres, have constructed a wonderful period piece, as well and contemporary material. The comparison isn't perfect, but I honestly doubt any director now or ever compares perfectly to Kurosawa's lengthy and impressive career.
    Reply
  • By Marshall Muse
    March 11, 2010
    02:36 PM

    Kurosawa was one of very few directors that, when you watch a movie of theirs that you had not seen before, you think to yourself "NOW THAT WAS A KUROSAWA FILM." A term that my good friend Sean Carter (who undoubtedly will give his input later today) introduced me to was 'auteur.' Kurosawa left his mark on his films in ways that few people have ever matched. His ability to expand into different genres is absolutely amazing, and is something that directors today are notoriously bad at achieving. In my opinion, in order to be a great director, you have to be able to make great movies, in various genres, all which clearly have "your" mark on them, and do it consistently. These criteria, though simple, fit very few people. I have seen plenty of Steven Spielberg films and not had any idea that they were his. George Lucas? Meh. Ridley Scott? Definitely not. Christopher Nolan? Not enough of an auteur. The list could go on and on. Not that these aren't respectable directors, they just are not on the same level as AK. When it comes down to it, there is a handful of people that are true auteurs. Akira Kurosawa - Every film of his is recognizable. Alfred Hitchcock - Again, recognizable. Sergio Leone - Come on. Martin Scorsese - Any film lover knows a Scorsese film when they see it. But many of these men are more "contemporaries" to Kurosawa than anything else. Who then, is Kurosawa's heir? Who makes consistently great movies in varied categories? Who can match his visuals, his characters, and is a true auteur in every sense of the word? Quentin Tarantino. He may or may not be yours or my favorite director. However, it is undeniable that when you watch a QT film, YOU KNOW IT's A QT FILM. His visuals are impeccable, his dialogue is classic, and his love for film is obvious within his works. I think that is all I need to say to get my point across without dragging things out. QT.
    Reply
  • By Eugene Golbin
    March 11, 2010
    03:28 PM

    As many of the above answers pointed out, there cannot be a single, true heir to Kurosawa. Like all great artists, Kurosawa contributed to the language of his medium, but with an innate ability to create extremely accessible and commercial movies. In this context, there is no contemporary director like Kurosawa. But I like to think that his gifts and vision live on in the work of the current generation of auteurs; from Eastwood's longevity, Scorses's cinematic sensibilities, Tarantino's genre subversions, Soderbergh's stylistic morphings, Wong's artistry, and Lucas's/Cameron's taste for the epic. All of these directors owe a direct debt to Kurosawa for revolutionizing the process of telling stories through moving pictures and carry on his legacy with their work.
    Reply
  • By Jason Dickason
    March 11, 2010
    04:55 PM

    Filmmakers tend to be more of anarchists than monarchs. It's a key trait found in most of the great artists really. So I'm not sure what you mean by "heir." But if you mean a filmmaker who's body of work is as impressive and iconic, who's stories will hold as firmly as milestones in cinema history, who is more than a great director, but one of the still living giants of the media, I would put my vote on Scorsese. And after all, he was the Van Gogh of Akira Kurosawa's Dreams.
    Reply
  • By Apostolos
    March 11, 2010
    06:09 PM

    Among filmmakers still working today I believe the most deserving heir to Kurosawa's legacy is South Korea's own "master" Im Kwon-taek. Having now directed 100 films over the past several decades and currently working on his 101st, Im has made films throughout a tumultuous period of Korean history which is strikingly similar to the difficult post-war stretch Japan suffered while Kurosawa was creating his masterpieces. Like Kurosawa, Im's career is so vast that his work encompasses several landmark films in many different genres. Kurosawa proved his art-house savvy with films like Rashomon and The Idiot, but could also make some mean action adventure flicks like Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. In much the same way Im has given us outstanding action films like The General's Son and Low Life, and at the same time beautiful and poignant art-house pieces like Sopyonje and Painted Fire. Both directors are also unique in that their films are better recognized and respected internationally than at home. For all the glory and reverence we attribute to Kurosawa, he sadly never won any Academy Awards for any of his films (although he later received an honorary award). Im also has suffered from a lack of recognition. He is perhaps the greatest director no one has ever heard of, which is a shame. Im won an honorary Golden Berlin Bear in 2005, Kurosawa was nominated twice but never won. Im won Best Director at Cannes in 2002 for Painted Fire, yet another reward Kurosawa deserves to own several but has none. Kurosawa was nominated several times for Venice's Golden Lion but only won once, for Rashomon. Im also has a couple of nominations but no awards. I feel Im's and Kurosawa's careers mirror in this way. Both were recognized for their achievements far too late in their careers, if at all, and both will continue to maintain a profound influence on their craft for future generations to enjoy, if and when they get around to noticing. Kurosawa will forever be remembered as a master of cinema who played an integral part in globalizing the awareness and appreciation of Japanese culture. Im westernizes the beauty and depth of Korean culture, still a mystery to most, in an equally magnificent way. Im is still with us, his struggle is present and his tragedy has not yet been realized. It's not too late to explore and support this man's fantastic repertoire of films.
    Reply
  • By David Smith
    March 11, 2010
    06:55 PM

    There have been quite a few good choices, some of my ideas have been taken, but let me throw a name out there that I'm surprised I didn't see listed yet. David Lynch Both are men who have no quarrels with experimenting and pushing the limits of film making. They both wholly utilized all of the viewers senses throughout their features, which I find to be one of the most intriguing aspects of film. They both have their differences in style, no question, but David's resume has been full of memorable and masterful pieces of work, while Kurosawa is, well, Kurosawa. They are innovators who know precisely how they want to tell their stories and execute it flawlessly. There are countless names out there one could compare stylistically or that are greatly inspired by the great director, but I feel Lynch will do the best job carrying on the legacy of top notch, original, and innovative film making...
    Reply
  • By matt maniaci
    March 11, 2010
    07:10 PM

    Steven Spielberg Regarded (by the West) as most successful directors from their respective countries • Well loved and respected by the masses • Epic-scale productions in various genre's • Oscar winners • Historical topics recreated dramatically with populist style.
    Reply
  • By VMS
    March 11, 2010
    07:31 PM

    Tarantino, only because of how they both approach the economy of filmmaking. Both share obsessive control over every detail in the frame. The editing is meticulous and shines searing light on those details when needed. The dialogue contains only what is necessary. (No, that's not a joke)
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