The emperor and the wolf

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the emperor and the wolf

The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune by Stuart Galbraith

Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune made sixteen feature films together, including Rashomon, Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo -- all undisputed masterworks of world cinema. The Emperor and the Wolf is an in-depth look at these two great artists and their legacy that brims with behind-the-scenes details, many never before known, about their tumultuous lives and stormy relationships with the studios and with one another. More than just a biography, though, The Emperor and the Wolf is also an impromptu history of Japanese cinema -- its development, filmmakers, and performers -- and a provocative look at postwar American and Japanese culture and the different lenses through which two great societies viewed each other.
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Published 12.01.2019

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The Emperor and the Wolf Stuart Galbraith IV Faber £20, pp There have been some notable collaborations between directors and stars.
Stuart Galbraith

The Emperor and The Wolf, The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune

The memorable insights into each of these two towering figures are smothered beneath page after page of plot synopses and mini-biographies of cinematographers, co-stars and screenwriters, several of whom had only tangential connections to Kurosawa or Mifune. Galbraith is an obvious enthusiast, and his love and encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese cinema radiate off every page. When he began researching this project, he writes, he discovered there was no English-language biography of Kurosawa in print. In rectifying that, Galbraith found it impossible to write about Kurosawa without writing about Mifune as well, and thus launched on his unusual double-biography. It was a decision with mixed results. Certainly the story of the two men is compelling. But his way into Toho was through acting, and once Kurosawa spotted Mifune, the die was cast.

The volatile relationship between the imperious director and his wild-man star produced a dazzling run of masterpieces. The first Japanese director to make a major breakthrough in the West, Kurosawa enriched its film culture with countless loans, mostly formal lightning-cut widescreen frenetics, feverish cross-cutting and propulsive narration, slow-motion violence, sinuous tracking shots but also tonal a Shakespearean mix of pageantry and pungency, of profound tragedy and knockabout gallows humour. Borrowing from Western literary sources both high Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Gorky and low American detective novels , and from Hollywood and Soviet cinema film noir, Ford, Eisenstein , Kurosawa more than amply repaid his debts. One of the most internationally influential directors in the history of cinema, he introduced editing and narrative techniques that would inspire or be copied by such directors as Sergio Leone, Sam Peckinpah, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Walter Hill, and just about any subsequent director who has shot and cut for maximum visual-visceral impact. Brash, dynamic and jokey, measured, ornamental and contemplative, Kurosawa's films inhabit many worlds mean streets both medieval and modern, the code of both the bushido and the corporate boss and encompass several genres and tones, by turns full of humanist pathos Ikiru , primal passion Rashomon , or apocalyptic iniquity Ran. The images with which Kurosawa is most frequently associated — battle scenes roiling with armour, flags, and fire, samurai wreaking havoc amid ruck and rain — tell only a small part of the story. Although Kurosawa and Mifune shared many aspects — both were intense, forceful, hard-drinking and disciplined — theirs was not the uncanny concert of, say, Ingmar Bergman and Liv Ullmann, in which the star was both muse to the master and an incarnation of his secret self.

The Emperor and the Wolf book. Read 22 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune made sixteen feature fil.
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3 editions of this work

The collaboration between director Akira Kurosawa and his regular leading man Toshiro Mifune stretched across 16 films, all shot in a span of less than 20 years; several of those works are regular contenders for any right-thinking all-time-best list. Though Kurosawa and Mifune drifted apart personally and professionally, neither could shake the other's presence, which makes them natural subjects for a dual biography. Stuart Galbraith's The Emperor And The Wolf is made all the more welcome by a shortage of English-language books on Kurosawa, not to mention a near-complete absence of material on Mifune. Mammoth in size if not in depth, Galbraith's book fills a sizable gap through bulk alone, offering detailed production histories, plot synopses, and critical histories from the beginnings of Kurosawa and Mifune's careers through their deaths in the late '90s. In these areas, Galbraith provides an invaluable service, ferreting out and commenting on masterpieces, minor early works, and late-career beer commercials alike. As long as he remains tightly focused on the "films" half of the "lives and films" equation, Galbraith remains on solid ground, particularly in his reassessments of some of Kurosawa's more obscure efforts, like his nuclear-paranoia drama Record Of A Living Being a. I Live In Fear and his unfortunately neglected final film, Madadayo.

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But perhaps the most extraordinary partnership is that between Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, the emperor and the wolf of Stuart Galbraith's joint biography. Mifune was in 16 of Kurosawa's 30 films and appeared in a further odd movies, several scripted by Kurosawa. Only two Mifune pictures directed by other filmmakers Mizoguchi's The Life of Oharu and Kobayashi's Rebellion are masterworks; the only Kurosawa picture without Mifune universally recognised as great is the Ikiru. The pair were similar and complementary. Both were heavy-drinking, physically imposing workaholics from middle-class, Westernised families buffeted by the economic and political crises of Japan between the two world wars. Temperamentally the director was a natural aristocrat, the actor a face in the crowd, voted 'the most Japanese man' in a s poll. Kurosawa was nicknamed 'the Emperor' for the imperious, peremptory style in which he dominated the set.


  1. Dorene M. says:

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  2. Kerman R. says:

    The Emperor and the Wolf: The Lives and Films of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune Paperback – January 1, Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune made sixteen feature films together, including Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo, and High and Low -- all undisputed.

  3. Skye O. says:

    A Hundred Years of Japanese Film: A Concise History, with a Selective. The Films of Akira Kurosawa, Third Edition, Expanded and Updated. Akira Kurosawa dominated the landscape of post-World War II Japanese cinema with such internationally influential films as Rashomon, Seven.

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