Akira Kurosawa is respected as one of the greatest film directors who ever lived, and as a master of the Samurai genre of Japanese cinema. Films such as “Rashomon,” “Seven Samurai,” Ran,” “Throne of Blood,” “Yojimbo,” and others, revolutionized cinema and introduced Japanese film to Western audiences. He always said he didn’t like talking about particular films after he had finished them. He wanted them to do the talking for him. “If what I have said in my film is true,” he explained, “someone will understand.” But he loved talking about the process of making films. When he wrote his autobiography, he said he worried that it would just end up being a bunch of talk about movies. Still it is through his writings and interviews that we can learn much about this genius of twentieth century film. Films were everything for Kurosawa, his one and only medium, and how he defined himself. As he put it, if you took him and removed films and film-making from the equation, you would have nothing left.
This all-encompassing obsession translated into great skill and success in his chosen profession. Kurosawa was a careful and caring craftsman when it came to his movies. He involved himself in every aspect of film-making from the beginning of the process to the end. No part of production was not under his direct supervision. For instance, he believed that being a good screenwriter was essential to being a good filmmaker. While many other directors had scriptwriters and didn’t write scripts themselves, Kursosawa had a hand in all those used in his films.
As he put it, “with a good script, a good director can make a masterpiece. With the same script a mediocre director can make a passable film. But with a bad script, even a good director can’t possibly make a good film.” Without the ability to come up with a good story, the director would have no way of telling it in a convincing or interesting way. He thought that a director must know everything there was to know about movies and the processes and ideas of the great directors. The script was essential in the process because it was the seed from which the tree of the film would grow and bloom. This is what distinguished the great directors from the mediocre ones.