From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Akira Kurosawa (23 March, 1910—6 September, 1998) was a prominent Japanese film director, film producer, and screenwriter. His first credited film (Sugata Sanshiro) was released in 1943; his last (Madadayo) in 1993. His many awards include the Legion d'Honneur and an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement.
A notable feature of Kurosawa's films is the breadth of his artistic influences. Some of his plots are adaptations of William Shakespeare's works: Ran is based on King Lear and Throne of Blood is based on Macbeth, while The Bad Sleep Well parallels Hamlet, but is not affirmed to be based on it. Kurosawa also directed film adaptations of Russian literary works, including The Idiot by Dostoevsky and The Lower Depths, a play by Maxim Gorky. Ikiru was based on Leo Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich. High and Low was based on King's Ransom by American crime writer Ed McBain, Yojimbo may have been based on Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest and also borrows from American Westerns, and Stray Dog was inspired by the detective novels of Georges Simenon. Story lines in Red Beard can be found in The Insulted and Humiliated by Dostoevsky. The American film director John Ford also had a large influence on his work.
Despite criticism by some Japanese critics that Kurosawa was "too Western", he was deeply influenced by Japanese culture as well, including the Kabuki and Noh theaters and the Jidaigeki (period drama) genre of Japanese cinema.
When Kurosawa got to meet John Ford, a director commonly said to be the most influential to Kurosawa, Ford simply said, "You really like rain." Kurosawa responded, "You've really been paying attention to my films."
The Idiot is a 1951 Japanese film by director Akira Kurosawa. It is based on a Fyodor Dostoevsky novel of the same name. Hakuchi was shot in black and white at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. It was Kurosawa's second film for the Shochiku studio, after the previous year's Scandal. Originally intended to be a two-part film with a running time of 265 minutes, Hakuchi was severely cut by the studio, against Kurosawa's wishes, after a single poorly-received screening of the full-length version. The director's cut has never been released, and thus the theatrical release is a 166 minute cut omitting 100 minutes. According to renowned Japanese film scholar Donald Richie, there are no existing prints of the original 265 minute version. Kurosawa would return to Shochiku forty years later to make Rhapsody in August, and, according to Alex Cox, is said to have searched the Shochiku archives for the original cut of Hakuchi, to no avail.
Speaking about the film and about Dostoevsky, Kurosawa said:
- "Of all my films, people wrote to me most about this one... ...I had wanted to make The Idiot long before Rashomon. Since I was little I've liked Russian literature, but I find that I like Dostoevsky the best and had long thought that this book would make a wonderful film. He is still my favourite author, and he is the one — I still think — who writes most honestly about human existence."