Akira Kurosawa Movies: 'Ran' & 'Dersu Uzala'

Maksim Munzuk Dersu Uzala
Maksim Munzuk Dersu Uzala

Three Academy Award-nominated/-winning films by Akira Kurosawa will be shown tonight on Turner Classic Movies: Dersu Uzala (1975), Kagemusha (1980), and Ran (1985).

Winner of the 1975 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, the poetic Dersu Uzala chronicles the difficulties encountered by a Siberian hunter (Maksim Munzuk) who's brought to civilization by a Russian explorer whose life the hunter had saved. Based on a real-life story, Dersu Uzala was Kurosawa's first film following his suicide attempt in the early '70s.

In Kagemusha, a thief impersonates a powerful – but deceased – warlord. Kagemusha was nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Foreign Language Film Oscars. Additionally, Kurosawa's epic shared the Palme d'Or with Bob Fosse's All That Jazz.

Ran is a variation on the King Lear theme, as the sons of an aging lord compete for positions of power. Ran earned Emi Wada an Oscar for Best Costume Design. The film was also nominated for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Director.

That was Kurosawa's first Academy Award nomination – a major upset, for Steven Spielberg had been a shoo-in for The Color Purple.

Ran couldn't have been nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category because the Japanese committee submitted another movie. And that's the Academy's loss.

Schedule and synopses from the TCM website:

5:00pm Dersu Uzala (1975)
A Russian explorer brings the Asiatic hunter who saved his life back to civilization.
Cast: Maksim Munzuk, Yuriy Solomin, M Bichkov, V Khrulev Dir: Akira Kurosawa C-141 min, TV-PG [Letterbox]

7:30pm Kagemusha (1980)
Japanese clansmen force a poor thief to impersonate their dead warlord.
Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Kenichi Hagiwara, Kota Yui Dir: Akira Kurosawa C-181 min, TV-PG [Letterbox]

10:45pm Ran (1985)
An aging lord's decision to retire brings out the worst in his sons.
Cast: Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu, Daisuke Ryu Dir: Akira Kurosawa C-163 mins

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1 Comment to Akira Kurosawa Movies: 'Ran' & 'Dersu Uzala'

  1. Akira Kurosawa's “Dersu Uzala” is dedicated to the director's depiction of the contours of a hypothetical civilization alternative to the one in which we all live in today. This civilization which Kurosawa imagined, could develop but didn't because of human pathological greed for power and profit and our mania to manipulate nature, life, other people and the world in general. Dersu with his alternative sensibility based on mutuality with nature represents for Kurosawa the lost child of this alternative civilization which tragically for us all didn't become a reality. On the level of the plot the film describes a friendship (based on mutual love for nature) between Dersu and a Russian scientist Arseniev who tries to learn from him wisdom of grace and grace of wisdom, the absence of vanity, and also humility vis-à-vis otherness of the world and spontaneous honesty. While destiny of Dersu is tragic – he falls victim of civilized predators (the crooks of excessive calculation of their advantages), the destiny of Arseniev is even more horrifying. Of course, he made a professional career, but as a typical scientist inside a civilization of calculation and domination he cannot control how the results of his scientific research are used by the decision-makers. So, his love for nature becomes pure idealism – by admiring the natural world he unintentionally helps to subdue it. “Dersu Uzala” is a precious present to all those who love and respect nature and otherness of the world and life. The film can be used as a cinematic textbook for International Green Movement. Please, visit: http://www.actingoutpolitics.com to read the article about “Dersu Uzala” – A Monument to An Alternative Civilization” (with analysis of shots), articles about other Kurosawa's films, and essays about films by Godard, Resnais, Bergman, Bresson, Antonioni, Bunuel, Alain Tanner, Pasolini, Cavani, Fassbinder, Bertolucci, Moshe Mizrahi and Ronald Neame.