Akira Kurosawa's Favorite Criterions

by Criteriophile

Created 06/14/13

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From Chapter 3 of A Dream is a Genius, ISBN 4-16-355570. Edited by Bungeishunju. © 1999 Bungeishunju. Akira Kurosawa discusses his top 100 films with his daughter, Kazuo. Kurosawa limits his choices to one film per director.

Translated by Noriyo Hoozawa-Arkenau

  • "Chaplin was very talented as an actor as well. Do you know, comedies are most difficult to make. It's much easier to jerk tears from the audience. He, of course, was gifted as a director as well, well-versed in music. I think he was so gifted that he himself didn't know what he should do with his own talents. Well, Beat Takeshi reminds me a little of him."

  • "Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) I would have loved to make! Indeed, many people have made Die Dreigroschenoper, haven't they? But Pabst's is definitely the best, I think. A great movie."

  • "An acquaintance* of mine, who sent Rashomon to the Grand Prix in Venice and to whom I feel very obliged, recommended me once to see the celebration's scene in Ivan Grozny (Ivan the Terrible) in colour. He said to me then that I also should make movies in colour. So, I saw it, and, indeed, I was amazed. Well, then, I used colours in Do desu ka den for the first time, and in Kagemusha I treated colours rightly. I wished that the acqaintance*, who already had died then, could have seen it. Then Mrs. William Wyler said: *He'll come (from heaven) to Cannes, Mr. Kurosawa. He'll come to see your movie!" Till then I usually avoided 'movie festivals', but since then I attend at least Cannes film Festival."

    (Note*: In the Japanese text the acquaintance's name is given. Unfortunately the English equivalent could not be found at the time of the translation)

  • "A pitiful story, isn't it? Everything in this movie, its 'colours' as well, again and again makes me feel tormented. This is a true representative of Neo-Realism. A wonderful movie, which established a certain cinematic style."

  • "He respectably well filmed a such complicated story. Its camera works are wonderful - I've learned much about camera works from this movie. A first-class movie which one can enjoy still nowadays. His "Odd man out" is also brilliant. This director is a very skillful movie maker with a documentary style."

  • "His characteristic camera work was imitated by many directors abroads as well, i.e., many people saw and see Mr. Ozu's movies, right? That's good. Indeed, one can learn pretty much from his movies. Young prospective movie makers in Japan should, I hope, see more of Ozu's work. Ah, it was really good times when Mr. Ozu, Mr. Naruse and/or Mr. Mizoguchi were all making movies!."

  • "Originally Jean Cocteau was a poet, wasn't he? His movie therefore is like a poem. The Grim Reaper, e.g., apears riding on a motorcycle! A very fantastical touch. His peculiar aestics is very interesting."

  • "We often said in joke "Mr. Mizoguchi must have undergone terribly bitter experiences with women!". I could never portray women in THAT way! Indeed, a cold shiver ran up my spine! The movie is incredible, its art as well, and its long shots as well. From Mizo-san I've learned pretty much."

  • "Mr. Honda is really an ernest, nice fellow. Imagine, e.g., what you would do if a monster like Godzilla emerges! Normally one would forget and abandon his duty and simply flee! You won't? But the personel in this movie properly and sincerely lead people, don't they? That is typical of Mr. Honda. I love it. Well, he was my best friend. As you know, I am a pretty obstinate and demanding person. Thus, that I had never problems with him was due to HIS good personality."

  • "Fellini's cinematgraphic art is excellent. It's in itself 'fine art'. Nowadays no one has such a peculiar talent more... One feels in his movies, say, an existential power, which has a strong impact. Well, I met him several times, but he was so shy that he didn't talk about his movies to me."

  • "It's a little strange picture shot from a pessimistic view. He's a pretty skilful director - his "Les liens de sang", e.g., is one of the best pictures filmized Ed McBain's novels."

  • "This Truffault's movie is brilliant, don't you think so? He let children very convincingly play. I openly praised it at that time, but it was hardly premiered, before it was withdrawed. I suspect that it was due to its that inept Japanese title "Otona wa wakatte kurenai (= The adults don't understand us children)"."

  • "He's a very productive movie maker. But he shows his talent in the fact that all of his movies keep a steady, high quality. When I saw "A bout de souffle", it looked really fresh - nowadays it may look not so fresh more - for many people meanwhile have imitated its style, e.g., in American New Cinemas. But, I want to emphasize, they should do their own new experiments as well, or the cinema will not develop further more."

  • "This picture is very easy to approach, it's a typical 'movie'. One could very well begin watching movies with this one, right? One can very well see what the hero feels, can't one? Its last, which goes on with a pretty clever tempo, is brilliant as well."

  • "I thought it was a very sophisticated picture. Accompanied with a whistled melody, the story is portrayed in the eyes of the heroine's child - this director, indeed, uses children very adroitly, in "Au revoir, les enfants", too."

  • "He's a pioneer of Nouvelle Vague. This picture filmized a novel written by an author, eh, in my memory, named Robbe-Grillet. It caused hot discussions on itself. This movie is not very easy to approach - various oppositional notions, e.g., 'now vs. past' and/or 'reality vs. unreality', are presented in it. But its expressional methods very much stimulated my interest."

  • "Once I've ridden on an elephant with him at an Indian film festival. Journalist fussed over that 'two severe directors were together riding on an elephant', but we are NOT severe at all. Journalists watch us only when we are angry and they amuse themselves with it. "It's unfair", we talked each other. Indeed, how can one ALWAYS be angry, eh!? And now, in this movie, e.g., a scarlet room was very impressively used, and one can see clearly his talent in it."

  • "At first glance it's a sweet piece, but really it is a wonderous, very horrific story - the cruelity children have was skillfully portrayed. And the children were well performing. The lighting and camera work had a very fine touch. A nice movie."

  • "We were very good friends. He was like a little brother for me. We once, drunk in Dom Kino, sang together "Shichinin no samurai"'s theme music. His expression of 'water', the way in that water is depicted, is really peculiar to him. This picture indeed makes me feel myself yearning to return to the earth."

  • "It's a long movie, follows a night throughout. Of course the camera and art succeeded in presenting an excellent colour. But, above all, the small episodes, which let me imagine in what environment he had been raised, are interesting. I love his "Smultronstället" and/or "Jungfrukällan" as well."

  • "When "Hachi-gatsu no kyoshikyoku" was premiered in Japan, I had a talk with him. There he forgot that it was an interview for a magazine, and asked me about practical, technical matters only, e.g., "Mr. Kurosawa, you let it rain really beautifully. How do you shoot it?" or so... To be honest, for me also such topics are more welcome, and we discussed it further. But the editors were pretty embarrassed."


  • By Nathan S.
    January 10, 2014
    06:52 PM

    This is such an awesome and fun list!
  • By mobiusfaith
    January 11, 2014
    08:48 AM

    An amazing list with wonderful recollections from a master.
  • By Peter_Wilson
    January 11, 2014
    02:24 PM

    I have the same list, though I see yours was created before mine. There are a few your missing, so you may check out mine and borrow them, as I may delete mine. BTW I've got another list, Your Favorite Criterion Edition, which is a compilation of members single favorite criterion entry. Please participate if you find the time.
  • By Criteriophile
    January 14, 2014
    01:02 PM

    Wow! What a thrill to honored with a featured list. Thanks Criterion!
  • By Billy
    January 15, 2014
    12:56 PM

    This is an impressive list featuring some truly fascinating comments from Mr. Kurosawa. Thank you for sharing. Solaris, by the way, is next on my Tarkovsky watchlist.
  • By Mike Prado
    January 17, 2014
    11:18 PM

    How fortunate are we to hear Kurosawa-san's insights into all these great films! Incredible, thanks for sharing Criterion. Just picked up Solaris, can't wait to see it!
  • By futurestar
    January 20, 2014
    12:54 AM

    I share the passion on these titles to library a copy of each. Nice post and list.
  • By SkySaw73
    January 25, 2014
    12:55 AM

    Very much enjoyed reading this list. Thank you for posting.
  • By Jonney
    January 28, 2014
    04:13 PM

    I'm fortunate to have all these in my library, especially since Kurosawa is my favorite director. Thanks for compiling this list.
  • By Michael H.
    January 28, 2014
    05:15 PM

    Thank you for compiling the list. And thanks to Criterion for releasing so many great films.
  • By Robert Knuckles
    February 01, 2014
    01:07 PM

    Several additions now to my long "Movies to watch" list. Just finished watching all of Akira Kurosawa's post-Mifune films, including Madadayo last night.
  • By Eduardo Munoz
    August 27, 2014
    03:02 PM

    A wonderful list, Akira does know his films!
  • By JohnnyC.
    January 14, 2015
    10:41 PM

    Here is a list you might want to check out (