Akira Kurosawa

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Akira Kurosawa (March 23, 1910 – September 6, 1998) was a very influential 20th-century Japanese film director. Perhaps his best-known film is The Seven Samurai. A small band of fighters protect a poor farming village against a large and vicious gang of bandits. The Hollywood film The Magnificent Seven is basically a copy of this. It replaces samurai with gunfighters, Japanese farmers and bandits with ones from the American Southwest, Toshiro Mifune with Yul Brenner and so on, but does not alter the plot in any basic way.

Another well-known Kurosawa film was Yojimbo or "The Bodyguard". An out-of-work samurai wanders into a town that is well on the way to being completely destroyed by two rival gangs of criminals. Partly by trickery and partly by superb fighting skills, he eventually knocks out most of both gangs and saves the town. Hollywood copied that as the Clint Eastwood film A Fistful of Dollars.

George Lucas says he got the idea for Star Wars after seeing the Kurosawa film Hidden Fortress. That film has a tough old general escorting a fleeing princess through enemy territory. They are assisted by a pair of Japanese peasants who provide much of the film's comic relief. Star Wars has Obi Wan, Leah and the two robots in rather similar roles, However, Hidden Fortress has no characters corresponding even approximately to Luke, Han, Darth Vader or the evil Emperor.

Kurosawa made two films which are essentially Shakespeare plays rewritten as Samurai tales: