Kurosawa and Obsession

I have a confession to make: I am obsessed with film.

I have what can only be described as prodigious recall when it comes to movie trivia. I’m extremely good at naming actors, directors, or films, generally when someone starts a conversation with the words, “What’s that movie with that guy?” I find it immensely satisfying to know stuff about movies. I cannot explain it.

It all began around a decade ago.

 Sometimes you just need a good sword fight.

Sometimes you just need a good sword fight.

I was a movie-obsessed teenager who picked up a British film magazine during a cross-country flight. I wanted to read the story about the new Batman movie. I wound up reading every word on every page in that magazine, gleaning a lot from articles ranking “the best” directors.

It dawned on me – I didn’t know who these people were.

A resolution was made. I would teach myself all I could about “classic” cinema, and would watch all the “important” movies I could. That summer, I spent hours in my room watching Coppola, Spielberg, Welles, Wilder, and Lean. I learned everything I could. I was obsessed.

There was one name that kept popping up, though: Kurosawa.

I had no idea where to begin with Akira Kurosawa. I knew he influenced George Lucas, and the first Star Wars was essentially a loose retelling of Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, but that didn’t mean much when I had no idea who the guy was or what he was all about.

Thankfully, I had a solution.

Zip.ca, long forgotten with the advent of Netflix, would ship DVDs to your front door every month, for a nominal fee. When you were done with one, you slipped it in an envelope, and sent it back – and soon another would arrive to take its place.

I didn’t know where to start with Kurosawa, but everyone seemed to like Seven Samurai, so I started there. It helped that samurai were pretty cool.

I sat down with popcorn, soda, and hit play. It looked beautiful. But what was going on? Who were all these characters? Why were there only six? Where was Toshiro Mifune, the only Japanese actor I could name? I had no frame of reference, no idea of what this movie meant – but it lit a fire in me.

I’m still feeding that fire. I’ve seen Seven Samurai and his other period epics, but there’s so much more to see. Let’s get started.


BEN FILIPKOWSKI

Ben Filipkowski lives and breathes film, books, history, music, and TV, so it makes sense that he's an aspiring novelist. When he's not watching Seven Samurai for the seventeenth time (with commentary), he can be found rewriting the latest draft of his novel, or out exploring another side of Ottawa.