I'm not even a worthy acolyte. Akira Kurosawa directed 31 films, and I've seen only half of them. I cracked his book Something Like an Autobiography only this week. Nor will claiming personal connection work. My first art movie was Rashomon, but I'm hardly unusual. The man worked for 50 years. Lots of people saw a Kurosawa at turning points in their lives. One woman decided to become a choreographer after seeing how he directed the action in Yojimbo.
But if Madadayo contributes to my anxiety, it also shows a way to cope. In one scene, each of an old professor's students rises to make a speech in his honor. One, however, says he's no good at speechifying. With the gusto of a typical Kurosawan minor character, he instead recites the names of all the railway stations from Hokkaido to Kyushu. If I cannot frame a fitting testimonial, instead I'll list ways of learning more.
1. The new edition of Donald Richie's The Films of Akira Kurosawa. For the movies I know, Richie deepens my enjoyment. For the ones I don't, he whets my appetite.
2. Stephen Prince's The Warrior's Camera. I'm suspicious of any book that says "proxemics," "reified," and "arrested dialectic" as I leaf through, but Prince manages to make himself clear despite lapses into academic-speak.
3. Screenplays for Ikiru, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Throne of Blood. Why aren't there more?
4. The autobiography goes only to 1950, but I'm told that it's crucial to understanding Dreams.
5. Of course they're no substitute for the silver screen, but videos exist for all of Kurosawa's films but four.
6. If you missed Ran at the Egyptian, you're in luck: It moved to the Broadway Market for one more week, starting Friday.
7. First Kagemusha, a costume drama with epic battles, then Madadayo, a fable about old age, at the Grand Illusion. These I've seen only on video, and I can hardly wait for the real thing.
All the books are available from Cinema Books on Roosevelt Way. If you've been in Seattle more than 15 minutes, you know about Scarecrow Video, but Kurosawa is also well represented at the neighborhood video stores.
I know only a few words of Japanese. "Oyakata" means "master" or "respected elder." In Ran, the Fool calls Lear "oyakata"; in Kagemusha, the prince uses it for the grizzled old general. "Madadayo," the word used in the film title, means "not yet." Can I say what we lost when we lost you, Kurosawa? Madadayo, oyakata. Not yet.
Barley Blair is the pseudonym of a little old lady who keeps trying to improve herself.