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Akira Kurosawa's centennial birthday: Celebrating a cinema giant

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The word “epic” existed before he ever shot an inch of film, but no other director ever embodied that word as much as Akira Kurosawa. Today would have been the Japanese director’s 100th birthday, so it seems fitting to take a step back and show our appreciation.

Kurosawa, who passed away in 1998 at the ripe old age of 88, made films spanning six decades. But his movies — like Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Throne of Blood — often found their setting in the age of code-abiding samurais and feuding feudal lords. Kurosawa was the first to admit that he often found inspiration by looking west to the works of Shakespeare, but filmmakers as far west as Hollywood often found themselves looking back at him and cribbing an idea or two, like in The Magnificent Seven. Even Clint Eastwood’s breakthrough performance (in Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars) was a riff on Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. None other than Martin Scorsese called him “my master.”

If you’ve never seen a Kurosawa film, you’re in for a treat. His landscapes were as expansive and picturesque as any John Ford western. And, especially in later films like Ran, his colors were as vivid as Technicolor itself.