Academy salutes Akira Kurosawa

Aug 21, 2008 by Ian Evans

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will pay tribute to the life and career of director Akira Kurosawa during a three-month celebration that will include a retrospective screening series and a new exhibition showcasing the director’s original artwork, which has rarely been seen outside of Japan. The kickoff will be Thursday, September 18, at 8 p.m., when the Academy will premiere of a new restoration of the 1950 masterpiece Rashomon in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Hosted by Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan, the evening will include a panel discussion with Kurosawa’s collaborators, friends and family, including son Hisao Kurosawa, who is the head of Kurosawa Productions. Following the film and discussion, the new exhibition Akira Kurosawa: Film Artist will be unveiled in the Academy galleries in Beverly Hills.

An Academy Salute to Akira Kurosawa will continue with screenings of five more of the director’s Academy Award®-nominated and winning films — Kagemusha, Seven Samurai, Ran, Yojimbo and Dersu Uzala — on Friday and Saturday evenings through October 4th, 2008.

Rashomon was restored by the Academy Film Archive in association with the Kadokawa Culture Promotion Foundation and The Film Foundation. The best surviving picture element was a 35mm release print, made from the original nitrate negative (which no longer exists), held within the collection of the National Film Center in Tokyo. The print was scanned at 4K resolution, and digital tools were used to clear the scratches, dirt and abrasions that existed in virtually every frame. The numerous pops, hisses, crackles and distortions on the print’s audio were also digitally removed.

Akira Kurosawa: Film Artist will present more than 100 of Kurosawa’s original pre-production drawings and paintings alongside many of the art supplies, calligraphy materials, annotated screenplays, props and hand-painted costumes that he used to explore and refine his artistic vision. Photographs, posters, marketing materials, correspondence and film clips illuminating his nearly seven-decade career will round out the exhibition.

In 1989 the Academy presented him with an Honorary Award (an Oscar statuette) “for accomplishments that have inspired, delighted, enriched and entertained audiences and influenced filmmakers throughout the world.”

The screening schedule for An Academy Salute to Akira Kurosawa is as follows:

At the Samuel Goldwyn Theater:

  • Thursday, September 18, at 8 p.m.
    • Rashomon (1950) — Premiering a new restoration, with special viewing of the Akira Kurosawa: Film Artist exhibition following the program
  • Friday, September 19, at 8 p.m.
    • Kagemusha (1980) — Premiering a new print, with special viewing hours for the exhibition Akira Kurosawa: Film Artist from 6 to 8 p.m.

At the Linwood Dunn Theater:

  • Friday, September 26, at 7:30 p.m.
    • Seven Samurai (1954) — Premiering a new print
  • Saturday, September 27, at 7:30 p.m.
    • Ran (1985) — Premiering a new print
  • Friday, October 3, at 7:30 p.m.
    • Yojimbo (1961)
  • Saturday, October 4, at 7:30 p.m.
    • Dersu Uzala (1975) — Premiering a new print

Tickets to each of the Kurosawa retrospective screenings, including Rashomon, are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID. Tickets are available for purchase by mail, at the Academy box office (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.), or online at Doors open one hour prior to event. All seating is unreserved.

Akira Kurosawa: Film Artist will be on display through Sunday, December 14. The Academy’s Grand Lobby and Fourth Floor galleries, located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills, are open Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6 p.m. The Academy will be closed during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend — Thursday, November 27 through Sunday, November 30. Admission is free.