Akira Kurosawa
essential films
SANSHIRO SUGATA
DRUNKEN ANGEL
IKIRU
SEVEN SAMURAI
YOJIMBO
RED BEARD
RAN
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The climatic battle on the moor between Gennosuke (Ryunosuke Tsukigata) and Sugata (Susumu Fujita).
SANSHIRO SUGATA . Sugata Sanshiro . 1943

This was Kurosawa's first film as a director. Many filmmakers require several pictures to do really notable work, but not Kurosawa. After training for many years at PCL (Toho Film Company), he was eager to make his first picture and ready to show an audience what he could do. As a result, the film has a kind of showing-off quality, like Orson Welles' CITIZEN KANE or Steven Spielberg's JAWS, with the director aggressively using all the elements of film to create memorable and striking imagery.

Many of Kurosawa's signature elements of style appear in this first picture -- his fondness for wipes, for disjunctive editing, and for camera movement. And he gives us the first of his film heroes striving for enlightenment. Played by a boyish Susumu Fujita (who played the heroes in Kurosawa's earliest pictures), Sanshiro is a brash young martial arts student who mellows and matures while studying judo under a master teacher. Set in Meiji-era Japan during the 1880s, this is an entertaining and delightful film.

-- Stephen Prince

Read an excerpt about the making of this film from Kurosawa's autobiography.
"People often ask me how I felt directing my maiden work, but, as I have said, I simply enjoyed it."
Akira Kurosawa
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From KUROSAWA.
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