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The Influence and Imagery of Akira Kurosawa

Part V: Finale

Attack of the Clones would be much less rife with Kurosawa references (though it contains a rather lengthy Ford reference in the Searchers-inspired rescue of Shmi). Some of the imagery of the love story is obviously taken from the love story of Seven Samurai:

 

The clone war battle also contains some startling similarities to the two major battle sequences in Ran. In that film, colour-coding plays a major role in identifying opposing forces, and screen direction helps the audience orient themselves as well. In Attack of the Clones, the Republic often uses green (and blue) blaster fire and attacks from right to left, while the villains often use red blaster fire and attack from screen-left to screen-right. This in itself was a clever inversion of the original trilogy: in those films the rebels used red blaster fire and usually attacked screen-left to screen-right (see the Imperial Walker assault in Empire, for example), while the Empire used green fire and usually attacked from the right:

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

Revenge of the Sith, however, would be barren of explicit Kurosawa references, save for a nod to Seven Samurai as Yoda strokes his head like Takeshi Shimura in an early scene on a Republic gunship (this was placed there by an ILM animator).

As you can see, the influence of Kurosawa goes much deeper than simply inspiring a few story details in the scripts. The cinema of Akira Kurosawa is an intertwined and deeply rooted part of George Lucas' cinema. It has shaped Lucas' visual perspective, his stylistic approach, his characters and his stories in both indirect and direct ways. I hope this article has given you a newfound understanding for both men. For those who are unfamiliar with Kurosawa's work, perhaps this is a good opportunity to broaden your cinematic taste. Star Wars is what led myself to Kurosawa, knowing that he was such an influence on Lucas, and his films have since changed my perspective of cinema. Criterion has restored and presented the director's finest work and are well on their way to assembling his entire filmography (all 30 films)--barring any of Kurosawa's 1940 and 1990's films, one should stick exclusively to their editions. A good starting place is Seven Samurai, an appealing and heroic drama, or similarly Hidden Fortress. For those seeking darker examples, Throne of Blood, Rashomon or Ran stand out as his finest films. Yojimbo and Sanjuro are more action-oriented smaller-scale samurai films, the first being cynical and ironic and the second being lighter and more heroic. His contemporary-set dramas offer films that are of equal--or perhaps even greater--merit; Ikiru is often touted as one of his most important, though i find the police dramas of Stray Dog and High and Low to be much more interesting. Finally, Red Beard and Dersu Uzala remain as two of his most unique and touching films, with Red Beard being downright sentimental--many consider it his most accomplished work. With filming taking nearly two years it split Kurosawa and Mifune apart and they never worked--and seldom spoke--with one another again.

04/10/07

Star Wars, the Star Wars logo, all names and pictures of Star Wars characters, vehicles and any other Star Wars related items are registered trademarks and/or copyrights of Lucasfilm Ltd., or their respective trademark and copyright holders. All other images are copyrights of Toho studios. They are used here for educational purposes under fair use.

Web site and all contents Copyright Michael Kaminski 2007, All rights reserved.
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