Kurosawa’s Birthday Month, Day 10

Mar 12, 2010

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).