Great Performances (1971– )
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Episode credited cast:
Akira Kurosawa ... Himself (archive footage)
Sam Shepard ... Narrator (voice)
Paul Scofield ... Kurosawa (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
James Coburn ... Himself
Clint Eastwood ... Himself
Shinobu Hashimoto Shinobu Hashimoto ... Himself
Hiromichi Horikawa Hiromichi Horikawa ... Himself
Kon Ichikawa ... Himself
Shuichi Kato Shuichi Kato ... Himself
Masahiko Kumada Masahiko Kumada ... Himself
Hisao Kurosawa Hisao Kurosawa ... Himself
Kazuko Kurosawa Kazuko Kurosawa ... Herself
Machiko Kyô ... Herself
George Lucas ... Himself (archive footage)
Tatsuya Nakadai ... Himself


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UK | Japan | USA



Release Date:

24 December 2000 (Japan) See more »

Also Known As:

Kurosawa: A Documentary See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

BBC Arena, KQED, NHK See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Steven Spielberg: This year the Academy's Board of Governors have voted an Honorary Academy Award to a man who many of us believe is our greatest living filmmaker, and all of us know if one of the few true visionaries ever to work in our medium.
Narrator: In 1990, at the age of eighty the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was given an honorary Oscar at the Academy Awards in Hollywood.
Akira Kurosawa: [in Japanese] I am deeply honoured to receive such a prestigious award. Thank you.
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Features The 62nd Annual Academy Awards (1990) See more »

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User Reviews

Very PBS-Friendly Documentary
15 September 2003 | by davidalsSee all my reviews

I would love to see a real filmmaker (Wim Wenders? Scorsese?) tackle Kurosawa - this documentary has it's moments but its' omissions are a little shocking.

The earliest bits - detailing Kurosawa's youth and family were most appealing (in spite of the re-enactments); about 1/3 of the way in this documentary really loses steam, offering few insights into Kurosawa's work - with some shocking omissions: STRAY DOG, THE IDIOT, BAD SLEEP WELL, LOWER DEPTHS, HIDDEN FORTRESS and HIGH & LOW aren't touched upon, and are all essential to understanding Kurosawa's working methods and worldview. The voice-over text holding this doc together is largely drawn from Kurosawa's own 'Something Like An Autobiography,' which focuses on his early career; apparently the filmmakers felt it adequate to leave off with that, before wrapping things up with a brief look at his 80s comeback. This was very much a miscalculation.

I did enjoy the late James Coburn's reflections upon SEVEN SAMURAI - Coburn came off more like a fanboy than a grizzled veteran, and had his detailed and affectionate appreciation rubbed off on the makers of this documentary it might've really been more of a success. Seeing Japanese screen icon Machiko Kyo was a real treat, and Kurosawa colleagues and scholars like Donald Ritchie and the great Kon Ichikawa were welcome presences; I wished they were given more time to offer opinions. Overall this is no waste of time, but if you're already a fan of Kurosawa, you won't get much out of this either.

And if you're really interested at getting into the thoughts, processes, themes and philosophies of Kurosawa, check out some of his less well-known films, the ones ignored here. The hits are as great as they are, but the intricacies of films like RED BEARD, LOWER DEPTHS, IKIRU and STRAY DOG are fascinating, complex and present a well-formed creative universe far more vast than anything suggested in this documentary.

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