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Everything I Know About Filmmaking I Learned Watching Seven Samurai

Everything I Know About Filmmaking I Learned Watching Seven Samurai

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New 200 page book will be released in November 2014 Contact ken lee@earthlink.net if you want additional information

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Published by: Michael Wiese Productions on May 28, 2014
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EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT FILMMAKING

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' # , - & ' ) ) / 0 % 0 0 % ' 1 & (

MICHAEL WIESE PRODUCTIONS

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Published by Michael Wiese Productions

12400 Ventura Blvd. #1111

Studio City, CA 91604

(818) 379-8799, (818) 986-3408 (FAX)

mw@mwp.com

www.mwp.com

Cover design by Johnny Ink. www.johnnyink.com

Cover art by Alessandro Bricoli

Edited by Gary Sunshine

Interior design by William Morosi

Printed by McNaughton & Gunn

Manufactured in the United States of America

Copyright 2015 by Richard D. Pepperman

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any

means without permission in writing from the author, except for the inclusion of brief

quotations in a review.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Kenworthy, Christopher.

Kenworthy, Christopher.

Master shots. Volume 3, Te director’s vision : 100 setups, scenes, and moves for your

breakthrough movie / Christopher Kenworthy.

pages cm

ISBN 978-1-61593-154-5

1. Cinematography. I. Title. II. Title: Director’s vision.

TR850.K4633 2013

777’.8--dc23

2013015076

Printed on Recycled Stock

for

Akira Kurosawa

and

students of film everywhere

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C

Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .vii

Prelude: East Meets West Meets East . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .x

Foreword: Sidney Atkins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .xv

STORY: Teaching and Learning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .xxii

DISC 1:

. M T : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

00:00:01 – 00:03:09

. “I T N G P U ”: . . . . . . . .3

00:03:10 – 00:10:26

. S S : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

00:10:27 – 00:17:09

. D T : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22

00:17:10 – 00:24:58

. A M H D : . . . . . . . . . . . . .28

00:24:59 – 00:32:56

. S A . P I: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .35

00:32:57 – 00:40:30

. S A . P II: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42

00:40:31 – 00:49:50

. T S S : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .46

00:49:51 – 01:01:11

. F V : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51

01:01:12 – 01:09:44

. F A : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55

01:09:45 – 01:14:13

. M P : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .58

01:14:14 – 01:22:38

. “S A C ”: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .63

01:22:39 – 01:26:31

. S A : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67

01:26:32 – 01:34:14

v

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. T S G : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72

01:34:15 – 01:40:25

. T : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .79

01:40:26 – 01:46:38

. I : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84

01:46:39 – 01:51:52

DISC 2:

. H ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .86

00:00:01 – 00:03:30

. N W ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .81

00:03:31 – 00:07:05

. B B ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .95

00:07:06 – 00:12:56

. T S ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .99

00:12:57 – 00:20:13

. T S A ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107

00:20:14 – 00:28:07

. F ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 112

00:28:08 – 00:30:23

. T F B ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115

00:30:24 – 00:41:30

. N S ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123

00:41:31 – 00:49:08

. T S B ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128

00:49:09 – 00:56:55

. B L ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133

00:56:56 – 01:08:23

. T N ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139

01:08:24 – 01:21:36

. T L B ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147

01:21:37 – 01:30:35

. F ( ): . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156

01:30:36 – 01:34:51

Awaken: An Enduring Muse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161

Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166

Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168

About the Author . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171

WATCHING SEVEN SAMURAI ••• PEPPERMAN

vi

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P :

E M W M E

Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) opened to audiences
in Japan on April 26, 1954, released by the Toho Film Com-
pany. In August of that year it appeared at the Venice Film
Festival; director Akira Kurosawa was acknowledged with the
festival’s Silver Lion. American audiences received the film on
November 19, 1956 at the Guild Teatre in New York City,
released by Toho and Columbia Pictures. Te running time
that autumn day was 160 minutes, “far too long for comfort
or for the story it has to tell. Te director is annoyingly rep-
etitious,” wrote Bosley Crowther in the next day’s New York
Times. Mr. Crowther was fifty-one years of age on that date,
so it is possible that his discomfort was authentic, though
urinogenitally rooted.

A film’s actual running time, however exact in measure, is less
a vital figure than its perceived duration: the psychological or
emotional “feel” of time. I am into my seventy-second year, and
while I understand the distresses of aging, by way of empathy
and regard for Mr. Crowther, I’ll give attentive deliberation to

the duration; but I, unlike Mr. Crowther, do not face the edgi-
ness of a critic’s deadline.

Releases and re-releases accepted running times of 163 min-
utes in Argentina; 202 minutes in Sweden; 150 and 190
minutes in the United Kingdom; 141, 203 and 207 minutes
in the US; and a 202 minute DVD edition in Spain. Te film’s
original release — also the version used for this book — was
207 minutes.

Mr. John McCarten, writing for “Te Current Cinema” in the
New Yorker magazine of December 1, 1956, under the title,
“East is West,” suered the running time not as much — “…
[the] tale meanders a bit in the course of this two-and-a-half-
hour film… ” — but nonetheless, he dispensed a flippant and
prickly appraisal:

Te well-known Japanese talent for imitation is readi-

ly discernible in the movie called Te Magnificent Seven,

an importation from the Orient. Directed by Akira

xx

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Kurosawa, the man behind Rashomon, the picture is

supposed to be a depiction of life in a small town in

sixteenth-century Japan, but what it boils down to is a

kind of Far Eastern version of one of our own sagas of

the lone prairie, deficient in only such local ingredients

as six-guns, flap jacks, young ladies in dimity, and nasal

monotones.”

Mr. Crowther’s review begins:

Te Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa, who gave

us that eerily exotic and fascinating picture Rashomon,

is now, after five years, represented by another ex-

traordinary film, which matches his first for cinematic

brilliance, but in another and contrasting genre. It is

called Te Magnificent Seven… ”

Kurosawa’s film was originally released in the West entitled
Te Magnificent Seven. Te title Seven Samurai was reappointed
by Toho following the 1960 John Sturgis film Te Magnifi-
cent Seven, featuring Yul Bryner, Steve McQueen, Eli Wallach,
Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and Horst Bucholtz in the
“imitation” of (or homage to) Kurosawa’s film.

Mr. Crowther’s appraisal does prophesize Kurosawa’s — and
cinema’s — universality:

“… the qualities of human strength and weakness are

discovered in a crisis taut with peril. And although the

occurrence of this crisis is set in the sixteenth century in

a village in Japan, it could be transposed without surren-

dering a basic element to the nineteenth century and a

town on our own frontier.

… [Kurosawa’s] use of modern music, which is as point-

ed as the ballad in High Noon, leads you to wonder

whether this picture is any more authentic to its period

of culture than is the average American Western film.

However, it sparkles with touches that would do honor

to Fred Zinnemann or John Ford… ”

Te Japanese director often acknowledged his esteem for the
work of American director John Ford — Akira Kurosawa un-
hesitatingly and gratefully met the West. He was content with
Imperial Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, ending, as
he saw it, the rule of foolish and dangerous militarists. He was
jubilant with the freedoms oered by the West’s setting aside
Japan’s severe limitations on the arts.

In the December 29, 1951 issue of the New Yorker Mr. Mc-
Carten reviewed Kurosawa’s Rashomon:

“Perhaps I am purblind to the merits of Rashomon, but

no matter how enlightened I may become on the art form

xi

PRELUDE
PRELUDE

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of Nippon, I am going to go on thinking that a Japanese

potpourri of Erskine Caldwell, Stanislavski, and Harpo

Marx isn’t likely to provide much sound diversion.”

Mr. McCarten was but forty-five years old at the time of Seven
Samurai, and according to the recollections of colleagues at the
New Yorker — publicly reported in 1974 obituaries and memo-
rials — he was a kindhearted gentleman. I suspect that many
Americans of the day were patently blinkered when confronted
by things Far Eastern; most notably Nipponese. Te “Great-
est Generation” exhausted far more post–World War II years
scorning America’s Pacific adversary than their Atlantic foe.

In 1964 American director Martin Ritt cast Paul Newman,
Claire Bloom, and Laurence Harvey in Outrage — a West-
ern “imitation” of (or homage to) Kurosawa’s eighth-century
tale based on two stories by Akutagawa Ryunosuke. In 1951
Rashomon received the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festi-
val, and a Best Foreign Film Academy Award. Mr. McCarten’s
apprehension notwithstanding, Kurosawa’s film granted Japa-
nese cinema opportunity and approval in the West.

Mr. McCarten’s “Te Current Cinema” of December 1956 as-
signed near equal space to Walt Disney’s Secrets of Life, and
the Doris Day–Louis Jourdan murder mystery, Julie — es-
pecially peculiar today, after a half-century of retrospection.

Te Discerning Film Lovers Guide (2004) judges Seven Samurai
“a passionate, exhilarating epic that stands alone in the realm
of adventure films.” Film & Video Companion (2004) reflects,
“Much imitated, still unsurpassed. By critical consensus one of
the best movies ever made.”

In his autobiography, Akira Kurosawa tenders his reminis-
cences, summoned up as appreciations of decisive life glimpses.
One early chapter is entitled “Storytellers.” It includes memo-
ries of movie-going adventures to see mostly foreign films from
America and Europe. At the Ushigomeken theatre Kurosawa
saw action serials and films starring William S. Hart. While
particular images stayed “emblazoned in (his) mind,” what re-
mained “of these films in [his] heart [was] that reliable manly
spirit and the smell of male sweat.”

Kurosawa honors recollections of his father taking him to hear
storytellers (Kosan, Kokatsu, and Enyû) in the music halls
around Kagurazaka, and the bright sway these masters of re-
sourceful tales — many told with accompanying pantomime
— had on him; and he reports his pleasure eating tenpura on
buckwheat noodles on his return home with his father follow-
ing an afternoon of story-listening:

Te flavor of this tenpura-soba on a cold night remains

especially memorable. Even in recent years when I am

WATCHING SEVEN SAMURAI ••• PEPPERMAN

xii

WATCHING SEVEN SAMURAI ••• PEPPERMAN

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coming home from abroad, as the plane nears Tokyo air-

port I always think, ‘Ah, now for some tenpura-soba.’”

In 1961, William Kronick, a Columbia University graduate
and an independent New York film director, saw Kurosawa’s
Yojimbo at the Toho Cinema in Los Angeles. Te experience
was so inspiring that Kronick joined with friends Robert Ga-
ney and Robert McCarty — two other independent New York
filmmakers — and created Seneca Productions and distribut-
ed Yojimbo in the United States.

William Kronick grew up in Amsterdam, New York, with
Everett Aison. Aison had designed and titled Kronick’s first
theatrical short, A Bowl of Cherries, and Seneca Productions
engaged Everett to design the opening titles, graphics, and ads
for Yojimbo.

Tetsu Aoyagi, a graduate of the UCLA film school, was being
groomed by Toho to be their American representative in the
newly planned Toho Cinema in New York City. Mr. Aoya-
gi’s father was one of the original Toho studio directors, and
mentored Kurosawa in his early years as an apprentice and
assistant director.

Tetsu Aoyagi came to live in New York City and represented
the Toho theatre, which opened on Broadway in 1962 after the

success of Yojimbo. Impressed by Aison’s designs, Akira Kuro-
sawa met with Everett at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Everett
Aison said, “Tetsu introduced me to Kurosawa, and I spent an
hour in awe!”

Everett Aison retired as Film Chairman (1973), and screen-
writing teacher and thesis advisor at the School of Visual Arts
(2011). For a change of place, he left the East Coast of the
United States and went west for the moist moderate Pacific
climes of the Japanese (Kuroshio) currents. Living in Belling-
ham, Washington, Everett was invited to introduce a screening
of Yojimbo to an audience attending “Te Masters of Japanese
Cinema” series at the Pickford Film Center. Everett met Mr.
Sidney Atkins at that film center, and providentially intro-
duced me. Sidney — a connoisseur of the East — emailed this
book’s Foreword to me in Long Branch, New Jersey.

And today, following all the many weaves and loops and syn-
chronicities in film and personal histories, I am increasingly
confident that despite mankind’s ethnocentric propensities,
and their many instances of cruel foolhardiness, the past 120
years confirm that the lure of cinema is global — above all
because the allure of story paraded on light beams oers en-
during rejuvenation to the world.

xiii

PRELUDE
PRELUDE

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