• Congratulations to yesterday’s winner, Franciscus Rebro! Franciscus wrote this response to our question about favorite behind-the-scenes facts from the making of Kurosawa films:

    My favorite behind-the-scenes anecdote about Kurosawa’s film involves the director’s relationship with the peerless Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, who scored several Kurosawa films and hundreds of movies by less famous composers. While working on the score for Ran, Akira and Toru couldn’t agree over the music to use during the first incredible battle scene. Takemitsu wanted the music in this scene to be composed entirely from battle sound effects, like the cries of men and horses, explosions and gunshots, and other sounds not playable on traditional instruments. On the other hand, Kurosawa at the time was deeply inspired by the orchestral works of Mahler, and in the end the director would not budge on his position to use a heavy, emotionally moving string score in this battle. At the climax of the piece, all musical sounds suddenly cut out to silence, and a single fatal bullet is fired, killing one of Lord Hidetora’s sons in one of the most impacting moments of the film and arguably Kurosawa’s entire oeuvre.
    As effective as the score ended up being, Takemitsu always lamented not being given full artistic control over that scene, and it would be fascinating to hear his original plan for it, which very likely would have sounded pretty radical, perhaps along the lines of his early experimental tape piece Sky, Horse and Death. Nevertheless, it’s a credit to Kurosawa that he was so unyielding in his artistic vision, and that the results are exquisite.

    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:

    What’s your favorite remake of a Kurosawa film?

    Please respond by commenting below, and we’ll choose a winner on Monday. You must leave a valid e-mail address to be eligible for the prize (an Ikiru DVD).

12 comments

  • By Karen M.
    March 12, 2010
    06:11 PM

    Definitely my favorite remake of a Kurosawa film would be "The Magnificent Seven". A fantastic film in its own right, and though it can never compare to its source material, the immortal "Seven Samurai", the 1960 remake is an all-time classic of the Western genre. Though it is seemingly futile to remake a Kurosawa film, "The Magnificent Seven" is as good an attempt as there will ever be, putting an original Western spin on Kurosawa's legendary tale.
    Reply
  • By will
    March 12, 2010
    06:38 PM

    my personal favorite is the magnificent seven because i really like the idea that Kurosawa helped usher in the at that point tiny career of steve mcqueen.
    Reply
  • By ArtVandelay
    March 12, 2010
    06:52 PM

    Though unofficial––and resulting in a successful lawsuit on Kurosawa's behalf––my favorite of the Kurosawa remakes is the great Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars. It, let's say, borrows heavily from Yojimbo and yet––miraculously––gets away with it. It served as an introduction to a remarkable director and star––not to mention an equally remarkable pairing––as well as what was to become affectionately known as the 'spaghetti western' genre. I can only hope it turned more than one eager viewer onto the originator of it all. And let's face it, if you're going to lift the premise of a film, what could possibly be better source material.
    Reply
  • By Kevin L.
    March 12, 2010
    07:06 PM

    I was going to say "A Bug's Life," but then I remembered Star Wars. It's strange to think that one of the largest, most central elements of US popular culture wouldn't have been possible with Kurosawa. I think it also speaks to how universal the stories were that Kurosawa told--that they can be transposed not just to westerns or modern dramas or bugs, but space fantasy. Strange indeed.
    Reply
  • By Ricardo
    March 12, 2010
    07:19 PM

    I would have to go with two films. The Magnificent Seven (Seven Samurai) and A Fistful Of Dollars (Yojimbo). The Magnificent Seven is a classic of the western genre. While it is a shorter version, it still keeps in tact all the main characters that made Seven Samurai great in the first place. The action may not be as great as Seven Samurai but it is highly entertaining to watch especially after learning that it is a remake of Kurosawa's film. Also an honorable mention, A Bug's Life. A Fistful Of Dollars is a favorite of mine. Sergio Leone, while not as great as Kurosawa, is one of the greatest directors of the 20th century and his career pretty much started with this film, even though he had made a film previous to this one. It is also the first film that involved the pairing of Clint Eastwood and Leone and the role that Eastwood is pretty much known for. While Leone would definitely argue that it ISN'T a remake, it certainly takes the whole story of Yojimbo and the main character and brings it to a western environment. A Fistful Of Dollars is just as important as Yojimbo because without it there wouldn't be The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Clint Eastwood would have still been doing little bit parts on tv shows and very small movies that have no significance. Bless Kurosawa for coming up with such simple and timeless stories that can be reinterpreted into so many other movies.
    Reply
  • By tholly
    March 12, 2010
    11:28 PM

    The Star Wars series. Kurosawa's work greatly influenced Lucas's work which has greatly influenced the modern Sci-Fi genre as we know it. Both director's and their respective works have been so revolutionary to film as a whole, their works will be with us forever.
    Reply
  • By Tom H.
    March 12, 2010
    11:33 PM

    The Magnificent Seven. Please give me a prize.
    Reply
  • By ZebulonPike
    March 13, 2010
    12:27 AM

    A Fistful of Dollars Better? Arguable. Worse? Also arguable. But if imitation is the best form of flattery, the last thing it should be is insulting.
    Reply
  • By Colin
    March 13, 2010
    02:05 AM

    I would have to say A Fistful of Dollars. Not simply because it's a great moving starring Clint Eastwood, but it led to the other Leone/Eastwood films culminating with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly! But, I'm also be big fan of the Seven Samurai based A Bug's Life.
    Reply
  • By ggPan
    March 13, 2010
    12:42 PM

    (I'm going to go out on a limb here) Takashi Miike's SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO. An insane mish-mash of Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars & Django with Japanese actors speaking their (deliberately cliched Western) dialogue phonetically in an English language that's obviously not their native tongue. This film's wild. Many say it's crap but I think I'm convinced it's an absurdist deconstruction of the cross-cultural whiplash undergone by Westerns over the last century. In this case: "Red Harvest" (USA) inspired Yojimbo (Japan) -> remade as A Fistful of Dollars (Italy)-> remade as Last Man Standing (USA)... and it all comes beyond full-circle with Sukiyaki Western Django (Japan). Oh yeah, the Japanese is mainly spoken by Quentin Tarantino in a cameo that adds to the strangeness.
    Reply
  • By tenderfoot
    March 13, 2010
    04:28 PM

    Although not technically a remake, Kihachi Okamoto’s Kill is based on the same source novel as Kurosawa’s Sanjuro. The differences are obvious and Kurosawa’s is much more streamlined, but the charm of Kill wins me over. Interestingly enough Tatsuya Nakadai acts in both films, but in Kill takes what was Mifune’s lead. Having watched the production of the story twice and from different perspectives, Nakadai does a great job of making the role his own. Kill wins by a nose and a stretch over Fistful of Dollars as the best Kurosawa remake.
    Reply
  • By Bertww65
    March 13, 2010
    10:33 PM

    I am going to hold out until the Scorsese/ Mike Nichol's remake of High & Low comes out. When you have two masters under the influence of a legend like Kurosawa, magic is bound to happen.
    Reply