Japanese art form is something that is closely followed by millions of individuals from around the world. This spans numerous sectors including food, fashion, and certainly cinema. One of the reason that Japanese cinema is popular within the country and worldwide, is the poignant concepts behind some of the more popular films. Themes involving samurai, the Yakuza, and even anti-war reached out to gain the interests of cinephiles everywhere. Of course, equally as famous were the Japanese moviemakers’ tendency towards extreme violence and other graphic viewing material. Let’s take a look at some of the individuals and movies that have shaped Japanese cinema over the years:
There are some movies that have been received more warmly than others and will continue to stand the test of time with movie audiences. Topping this list is The Seven Samurai, released in 1953. It involves a down and out samurai who must heed the call of a victimized village. The samurai gather six other villagers to help him defend the residents against the bandits. One of the most impressive aspects of this film is the fight sequence that takes place between the soldiers and the bandits. Even decades later, it is still hailed as one of the most stunning cinematography elements.
For those looking for a more poignant tale about life, loss, and the gap between generations, you may want to turn to Tokyo Story. Released in the same year as The Seven Samurai, this story deals with a different plot line. Perhaps what is truly so memorable about this film is that even half a century later, it holds truths that every audience member can relate to. Finding the balance between work and family as well as the distractions that life has to offer are just a few of the themes explored. It really is a movie for the ages.
Of course, great movies cannot be made without great directors at the helm. Japan has produced some of the finest directors, whose work is still being mimicked today. One of these phenomenal individuals was none other than Kenji Mizoguchi. He was known for productions such as Ugetsu and The Life of Oharu. One of the hallmarks of Mizoguchi’s works was a harsh and unrelenting look at Japanese culture and his criticisms of some of its failings. In addition to his masterful creations, Mizoguchi was also quite revolutionary. He took on the plight of Japanese women quite early on, creating movies that showcased the tribulations that many women of that time faced.
Yasujiro Ozu, director of Tokyo Story, also deserves his credit. This is not just because he created a masterpiece that continues to be relevant even so many decades later. It is also because of his ability to create visuals that were quite different from other directors. He used techniques that elevated his characters and their scenes to new heights. In addition to bringing common themes to light, he also lent them a powerful, ethereal glow as well.
It would be remiss to not have Akira Kurosawa on this list. Kurosawa had many triumphs including Rashomon and The Seven Samurai. He was certainly no stranger to producing beautifully choreographed scenes. One of the greatest measures of Kurosawa’s talents, however, was his ability to reach audiences worldwide. He is one of the Japanese directors that is credited with the prevalence of Japanese movies in the Western world.
The final but no less important piece of the puzzle is the actors and actresses who helped to create some of the most memorable Japanese movies. Due to the considerable span of the Japanese movie history, of course, there are numerous thespians that have left their mark in cinema. Of the actors, some that have been noted for exceptional performances are Toshiro Mifune, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Takeshi Kitano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ken Watanabe, and Hiroshi Abe. Actresses have achieved just as much accolades and fame as their male counterparts. These performers include Kou Shibasaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Kimiko Yo, and Rinko Kikuchi.
This is just a brief glimpse into the vast world of Japanese cinema. It has a rich and beautiful history that still resounds today.