Akira Kurosawa 100th Anniversary Memorial Tribute

[MUSIC] [STONE]: He had a certain presence, like an emperor. He walked into the room, people looked, they stopped and they looked. [MUSIC] [GERE]: One of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Seminal, in so many ways. Not just for Japan but for the whole world of cinema. [SCORSESE]: Let me say it simply: Kurosawa was my master and so many others, the master of so many other film-makers over the years. [MUSIC] [SPIELBERG]: From his very first film, Sugata Sanshiro, to his last film, Madadayo, Akira Kurosawa has been a maestro to my entire generation and to every generation of film-makers who watch movies, are inspired by movies, and learn from movies. And this is something on his 100th birthday that I shall never forget. [STONE]: He had action plus psychology, and he was good at it. In fact, what was striking in the 1950s was how different he was from the American action directors that I so admired. What were the themes that I really remembered in the Seven Samurai was the underdog. [GERE]: He’s expressing his life in his movies. There’s no difference that I can see. I mean, he really was the central character in all of his movies. And this Japanese sense of class of structure, of hierarchy, which was very much a part of a lot of his movies, made the most of his movies, was there in his life as well. [MUSIC] [GERE]: I remembered meeting him and my impression was that he was like a basketball player. Like Wilt Chamberlain. He was so tall. Many years later, a friend of mine sent a picture over and I wasn’t looking up like this at all. We were the same height. But the feeling was that he was a giant. And that’s the power of talent and genius. [SCORSESE]: It was definitely unheard of for the actor, to, I think, ask for another take. I was not asking for an acting. I was just saying if he wants to use that, I don’t know if the English… it doesn’t sound right. Cause I know I used the wrong words here. *laugh* So he (Kurosawa), said “alright. Sensei says you can do one more take.” By that time I realized you don’t ask for another take. If he’s happy, that’s it. The man wants it, that’s the end of it. You know. Just leave him be. He’s sitting there like this and he knows what he wants. He knows what he’s doing. If it’s the wrong English, he’s gotta get another two takes. But I didn’t know, I just figured I’d help him. But he didn’t need any help. *laughs* But also, the subtlety with the way he was working with the camera, you couldn’t tell what he was doing. He sat like an emperor, in a way. But benevolent. I could edge. I could ask to move the press. I could ask for another take. I could kind of get in there — respectfully. *laughs* [STONE]: I think that there’s great dignity, a form of dignity of Kurosawa. But his films are supple. It’s not stiff. Very supple. And in capturing the actors like Mifune and the beautiful older men, and the women – the women were beautifully done – he just captures… there’s a truth to it. He cuts through to the essence of a person. [MUSIC] [SPIELBERG]: I remember having an amazing evening with Akira where we went and had some wonderful tempura in Tokyo. This was many years ago. We had met for the first time. We started talking about movies, and it was the first time that I really realized that there was absolutely no abyss between the culture of Japanese film-making and American film-making. In a sense, we were the same blue-collar workers doing the same hard work, in the same often artificial conditions, like artificial rain that creates real mud, both in my experience making my movies and in Akira’s experience making, let’s say, a film like Seven Samurai. And we talked shop for almost 5 hours. And it was just like taking to just another American film-maker. And I think to Akira, it must have felt to him like he was talking to another Japanese film-maker. Because in that sense, film-makers like Akira had proven to all of us that we share a common culture and a common language. And our cultural heritage is all about the people who inspire us in every country. Anyone who has something to say, who can work their art into our lives and impress us forever with imagery and story and wonderment. These are the people that we learn from. And Akira Kurosawa, I have learned more from him than almost any filmmaker on the face of the earth. [PIANO] [GERE]: None of this came out of nothing. We are influenced by who we perceive to be the great artists who came before us. The great ones. And we attach ourselves to the lineage that touches our hearts. And the Kurosawa lineage was always something that continuously touches me very deeply. [STONE]: I wish Mr. Kurosawa could be here and feel the love and the appreciation for his work. I wish he were. [SCORSESE]: I’d like to thank the Anaheim University Akira Kurosawa School of Film for hosting tonight’s tribute to Akira Kurosawa. When the great filmmaker, Michael Powell saw Rashomon for the first time at the little Carnegie theatre in Manhattan, his conception of what a film could be and what cinema could do was changed forever. “Kurosawa had us in the hollow of his hand,” (Powell) wrote later in his autobiography, “every image, every twist in the plot revealed a master.” So here was one great artist built over by a younger one. Michael was in his 40s when he saw Rashomon. And you can imagine how it felt for those of us who were younger, whose eyes were opening to movies, as we saw our first Kurosawa pictures. You could imagine the shock, that level of mastery. I still feel that shock, that wonder when I look at this pictures again today, at Ikiru, which was the first film I saw by Kurosawa. And at Seven Samurai, and at High and Low, and the Bad Sleep Well, and Yojimbo, Kagemusha, and Ran. And so many others. So when filmmaking runs that deep, it never really becomes familiar. It always feels like you’re watching it for the first time. Akira Kurosawa taught us all so much, and gave us so much, and I congratulate the Anaheim University Akira Kurosawa School of Film, once again. I thank them for paying tribute to a man who was finally our master. Our sensei. Congratulations, Sensei, on the 100th anniversary of your birth.

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