For Reel

A Message from Akira Kurosawa: For Beautiful Movies (2000)
January 11, 2016, 11:23 pm
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Director: Hisao Kurosawa
3 Stars
A Message from Akira Kurosawa - For Beautiful MoviesAkira Kurosawa, like many of his contemporaries, was notoriously difficult in interviews throughout his life. He reportedly saw filmmaking as something more akin to a craft than an art and therefore not worth discussing in the intricate detail that scholars tend to devour. This documentary, released just two years after the great director’s death, rectifies some of his caginess by involving interviews that he gave in the last years of his life, mostly regarding the films Rhapsody in August and Madadayo. Of course, Kurosawa fans are bound to be slightly disappointed that the documentary better serves Kurosawa’s late period, however the way that Hisao Kurosawa (Akira’s son) frames the documentary is as a masterclass in filmmaking, with his father discussing elements such as lighting, production design, and storyboards in distinct chapters. It would be a useful tool for young film students, even if a slightly more critical and theoretical analysis would have strengthened the portrait. What the documentary argues about Kurosawa is that he considered directing to be a reflection of humanity. In discussing a scene in which an old woman’s umbrella breaks in Rhapsody in August, Kurosawa muses that he can’t explain why audiences found the scene so emotional, but that it is the sort of moment that he only achieves a few times per movie. This aggressive pursuit for “cinematic essence” was Kurosawa’s driving force, and if For Beautiful Movies is largely a surface-level examination of Kurosawa’s career, it does offer the rare chance to hear him discuss filmmaking techniques in detail.