Akira Kurosawa at 100

Akira Kurosawa, on the set on “Dersu Uzala” (1975)

Photo courtesy mptvimages.com

A happy belated birthday to one of my favorite filmmakers, Akira Kurosawa. Although he passed away in 1998, he would have turned 100 on March 23.

The prolific, Japanese writer-director had a career spanning more than 50 years. While he’s perhaps best known to American audiences for such sword play-heavy epics as “Seven Samurai” (1954) and “Ran” (1985), he also directed crime thrillers (like 1949’s “Stray Dog” and 1963’s “High and Low”), fantasies (1990’s “Dreams”) and humanist dramas (1952’s “Ikiru” and 1993’s “Madadayo”).

Unfortunately, he never won a much-deserved Academy Award, though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did award Kurosawa with an honorary Oscar in 1990. His influence can still be felt in film and other media today.

Among those who acknowledge his contributions to their works are George Lucas (whose “Star Wars” films were inspired in part by Kurosawa’s 1958 adventure-comedy “The Hidden Fortress”) and comic book artist Stan Sakai (“Usagi Yojimbo”).

For Kurosawa fans, which of his films are your favorites?

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