12. Akira Kurosawa (1910 – 1998)
One need look no further than John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven (based on The Seven Samurai), Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (a remake of Yojimbo) or George Lucas’s Star Wars (inspired by Hidden Fortress) to give credit where it’s due.
In a Time remembrance at Akira Kurosawa’s death, director Zhang Yimou said that “Other filmmakers have more money, more advanced techniques, more special effects. Yet no one has surpassed him.”
Says Facets’ Ray Privett, “Kurosawa was one of the first ‘foreign’ filmmakers whose work I encountered. His drawing on texts I already knew—Macbeth, King Lear and so forth—provided an entry point into a rich and dynamic body of work. But his situating of these texts in a world I didn’t know—Japan—helped me reach beyond familiar reference points in my cinephilia.”
Such is the mystery of Kurosawa: a man who made films in his native Japan, but was more greatly appreciated in the west. He made movies for the people of his country, but was criticized for alienating Japanese audiences. He was a director revered in America when relatively few of his 30 films ever made it to the continent. Yet he remains one of our greatest storytellers, mastering the art of effecting a cultural tale with worldwide significance.