Akira Kurosawa
March 23 1910 - September 6 1998

After training as a painter (he storyboards his films as full-scale paintings), Kurosawa entered the film industry in 1936 as an assistant director, making his directorial debut in 1943. After working in a wide range of genres, he made his breakthrough film Rashomon (1950) in 1950. It won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, and first revealed the richness of Japanese cinema to the West. The next few years saw the low-key, touching Ikiru (1952) (Living), the epic Shichinin no samurai (1954) (Seven Samurai) and the barbaric, riveting Shakespeare adaptation Kumonosu jo (1957) (Throne of Blood), the later two showcasing the magnetic personality of 'Toshirô Mifune' , who also starred in the two samurai comedies Yojimbo (1961) and Tsubaki Sanjûrô (1962). After a lean period in the late 1960s and early 1970s, though, Kurosawa attempted suicide. He survived, and made the Russian co-production Dersu Uzala (1974) and, with the help of admirers 'Francis Ford Coppola' and George Lucas, the samurai epic Kagemusha (1980), which was in many ways a dry run for Ran (1985), his second Shakespeare adaptation. He continued to work into his eighties with the more personal Yume (1990), Rhapsody in August (1991) and Madadayo (1993). Kurosawa's films have always been more popular in the West than in his native Japan, where critics have viewed his adaptations of Western genres and authors (William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Maxim Gorky and Evan Hunter) with suspicion - but he's revered by American and European film-makers, who remade Shichinin no samurai (1954), as Magnificent Seven, The (1960), Yojimbo (1961), as Per un pugno di dollari (1964) and Kakushi toride no san akunin (1958), as Star Wars (1977).