Sanshiro Sugata

Film - Feature | December 18 | 6:30-7:50 p.m. |  Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

 Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Akira Kurosawa made his directorial debut in 1943, during the height of World War II and at a time when “you weren’t allowed to say anything worth saying,” as he recalled. “Back then everyone was saying that the Japanese-style film should be as simple as possible; I disagreed and decided that, since I couldn’t say anything because of the censors, I would make a really movie-like movie.” Concerning a hero’s awakening and embrace of a larger ideal (in this case, judo), Sanshiro Sugata has a dazzling cinematic energy that is already pure Kurosawa, complete with novel fight scenes (one done entirely in darkness and shadow, another shot on a windswept, grassy mountainside) and a remarkable control of filmic techniques for capturing emotion, space, and time; one montage of a pair of discarded sandals, for instance, conveys the passing of the seasons with an economy as simple and pure as a line of poetry. Within these eighty minutes lies the foundation of an entire career.

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