A little over three years ago I sent an e-mail to Matt Gamble which, paraphrased, began “I have an idea for a column.” Looking back, I didn’t know quite what I was getting into, for good and ill. Obviously, I was going to watch a series of tremendous films, Kurosawa has some peers but no real superiors as a director, and it was a pleasure to discover the joys of The Most Beautiful, No Regrets for Our Youth, and One Wonderful Sunday, among others. However, it soon became clear that I had to bring my A-game in writing about a director as great as Kurosawa and many weekends were spent working on reviews. That’s not so bad for winters in Wisconsin, but it sure took discipline at other times. Not to mention, a mostly understanding wife.
I didn’t want to be one of those guys that starts an ambitious, but finite project on the internet and leaves it unfinished. My own stubbornness and the help of various people helped carry me through, so some thanks are due.
This project wouldn’t exist at all if it wasn’t for Matt Gamble and his website. Matt and I have been friends for a long time, exchanging countless words about movies, baseball, and other odds and ends, and he created the platform for this project to exist and assisted me in the technical details that kept this a smooth running operation. His enthusiasm for the project helped
This project also wouldn’t exist without the cooperation of my wife, Sarah. Not only for her patience, but also because she became my editor on the project; the final products are definitely improved.. It undoubtedly helped that she sat with me and enjoyed many of Kurosawa’s films along with me.
Thanks are also due to James Gilham, Angela Fabrinni, Nat Almiral, and Cody Lang for keeping Where the Long Tail Ends up and running. It eased my conscience many a time to see other content filling the site while I was worrying over falling behind. Thanks also to Kurt Halfyard and Andrew James from the Row Three Cinecast who were also kind enough to let Matt plug his website and this column on many an occasion.
The fine folks over at the Criterion Collection were invaluable to this project. With their Eclipse box sets, it was rather easy to track down the obscure Kurosawa films and made it possible for someone who didn’t have access to film archives to view all of Kurosawa’s films. A few years ago, this project simply would not have been possible.
The late Donald Richie’s book, The Films of Akira Kurosawa, was an invaluable resource. I found myself referring to it often, and purposely chose the rather straightforward walk through the plot of Kurosawa’s films as a conscious counter-point to the format of his book. I don’t know if that choice always worked, especially if you read the reviews in chunks instead of on a monthly basis, but there was a reason behind the format.
And, of course, Akira Kurosawa and his talented collaborators, including but not limited to, Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura, need to be thanked. I’ve written a lot of words on Kurosawa, but I feel that I’ve barely done him justice as the pressures of deadlines and life limited what I chose to put into writing. But, it’s hard to encapsulate genius in words, especially a genius as bold and productive as Kurosawa. There are thirty films attesting to Kurosawa’s greatness and visiting and revisiting those films will create generations of inspired fans and filmmakers. Kurosawa inspired me to start and complete this project and I hope other people take up the challenge of viewing a great creator’s works from start to finish. It deepened my understanding of Kurosawa and film and I hope I entertained and passed along my enthusiasm to others.
Finding a passion and pursuing it with all your skill is a sentiment that I’m sure Kurosawa would approve of. He inspired this project in me and I hope that this project inspires others. If an artist’s goal is to inspire change and action, then I’m part of the proof of the success of Kurosawa. To him, and every director that inspired me, I owe a great debt. If this project continues that chain of inspiration, then I feel I’ll have at least partly repaid it.