Kurosawa’s Birthday Month, Day 7

Mar 9, 2010

Congratulations to yesterday’s winner, Rotem! Rotem’s favorite use of music or sound in a Kurosawa film is:

In Ikiru, after his visit to the doctor where Kanji is notified about his situation, and that he has only a few months to live, we follow him in the next scene walking in the street. Instead of adding a sad tune to the scene, or introducing us to his thoughts via voice-over, all we get is silence: we hear nothing, not the people walking around him, not the cars, not the birds—absolutely total silence. But after a few seconds, the sounds burst back in: a loud sound of cars and people all mixed together is suddenly introduced to us—because they are now a threat on Kanji, who crossed the street while there is danger around him—a danger which he didn’t notice because he was overwhelmed by the doctor’s diagnosis he got moments ago. This is a brilliant use of sound, or un-use of it: In the most difficult moment of a man, what can words say? What meaning does music have? All we are left with is the nothingness of the acceptance of the upcoming death.

We also liked Doug Bray’s description of this moment in The Hidden Fortress:

Kurosawa’s use of the same song twice in The Hidden Fortress, first as a lighthearted celebration at the fire festival, then as a eulogy the princess sings awaiting death; she sings the whole song with not one cut or movement. Using the same song to express a moment of happiness and one of utter despair, brilliant.

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:

Create an anagram using the title of a favorite Kurosawa film, or an actor or character’s name.

Please respond by commenting below, and we’ll choose our favorite tomorrow. You must leave a valid e-mail address to be eligible for the prize (a Criterion or Janus T-shirt).