Akira Kurosawa – Composing Movement

Akira Kurosawa – Composing Movement


Hi my name is Tony and
this is Every Frame a Painting. So here’s a fundamental question: When you’re judging a shot,
what’s the first thing you look for? Is it balance? Leading lines? Golden ratio? Color? Light? Shapes? I think these are all essential,
and they’re all part of good images. But there’s one thing
I always notice first Movement –For me, Kurosawa is the
Beethoven of movie directors –It’s that recognizable full sound
that Beethoven had –that is so unmistakable A Kurosawa film moves like no one else’s Each one is a masterclass
in different types of motion and also ways to combine them. Over a career spanning half a century
he made 30 films and in all of them, the movement
is surprising and cinematic. Wow. If you’d like to see the names
of the films, press the CC button below. So what types of movement did he like? First, there’s the movement of nature. In every one of his films,
the background of the shot features some kind of weather. Wind Water Fire Smoke Snow One advantage of this approach is that
shots have a lot of visual interest. Even when people are still, there’s rain
in the background to draw your eye. –Rain is a real emotional trigger
that works in any film. –You know, anything that’s excessive
because it gives you –another layer that the
audience can relate to sensually. Second, there’s the movement of groups. Kurosawa films usually feature large
groups of people who band together or split apart. Crowds like this are really cinematic.
When you put this many people in a shot, any emotion feels big. If you want a good reaction shot,
try using four people Or twenty-five And if you want something really big… Which brings us to #3:
the movement of individuals. One of my favorite things
about Kurosawa is that that his blocking is
unrealistic and exaggerated. If someone is nervous,
they pace left and right. If they’re outraged,
they stand straight up. And if they’re ashamed… He would often tell his actors to pick
one gesture for their character and repeat it throughout the film. That way, the audience can quickly see
who’s who and how they’re feeling. Number four: movement of the camera. One of the hallmarks of Kurosawa’s style
are his fluid camera moves that go from close-up to full shot to
OTS in a single unbroken take. I did another essay about these shots,
called the Spielberg Oner, but what’s important here is that
every camera move has a clear beginning middle and end. Just by itself,
this camera move tells a story. And last, there’s movement of the cut. Kurosawa is one of the few directors
who worked as his own editor. One of the reasons his movies just flow
is that he tends to cut on movement. Often, you’re paying so much attention
to someone who’s moving that you don’t see the edit. When he finishes the scene,
he switches the rhythm usually by ending on something static. and then cutting straight into movement. By switching up the rhythm,
he keeps you on your toes, because you can’t guess the next cut. So with all that, let’s break down
one scene and study the motion. This scene is from Seven Samurai.
I won’t tell you what it’s about. See how long it takes you
to figure it out. Ready? The first shot shows the whole village,
then just the important characters then just the samurai. Right about here… most people get what’s happening. As Kikuchiyo sits down his mood ripples
outwards to affect the whole village. Notice how much the wind adds to the
scene. Even when people are still there’s that little bit of wind
to spice up the frame. So that’s pretty straightforward. Now let’s jump 60 years into the future.
This is The Avengers. Here, we start with a camera move into
an establishing shot. But this time… –These were in Phil Coulson’s jacket. We get dialogue right away. Throughout this scene, the only things
that move are the camera and Nick Fury. Even though we have weather outside and
actors in the background none of them are used. Notice that the camera movement doesn’t
have a beginning or an end. And there’s no variation. Each shot
goes in the exact same direction –Maybe I had that coming. But in Seven Samurai… The camera moves have a distinct
beginning middle and end. And each shot changes
direction from the previous one. As he climbs up, Kurosawa uses
the movement of the flag to cut smoothly into this angle: all seven samurai and
their banner, together. This scene has every type of movement carefully pieced together
and spaced throughout. The weather. The group. The individual. The camera. The cut. But this scene tells its story
mostly through dialogue –called the Avengers Initiative. Sure, the camera moves.
But it’s pointless movement. For all the money that was put into it,
this scene feels flat –It’s an old-fashioned notion. But how could you improve this scene?
Well… if you know what the scene’s about,
try to express it through movement. Start with the character.
How are they feeling? Is there any way the actor
can convey that by moving? Okay, maybe that’s too much.
Let’s be more subtle. Take the feeling that’s
inside the character and bring it out
through the background. If a character is angry and menacing,
you can do this Or if she’s simmering
with resentment. Another option is to contrast
one person against the group. So if somebody suffers a very
public humiliation, this works. Or if they’re looking for
a needle in a haystack You can use camera movement
to convey excitement You can cut on movement
to show surprise And you can combine every type of motion
into one amazing image By the way, you don’t need to put every
type of movement in every shot. That’s just tiring. But there’s a nice middle ground with
lots of variation and subtlety and you won’t know what
works best until you try it. If you combine the right motion
and the right emotion you get something cinematic. –But just for me, I look at his movies
two or three times a year –just to feel, oh wow, that’s why
I wanted to be a filmmaker –and look what I’m doing now. –Special effects, and then
another movie about special effects –and then a third movie
about special effects. Now pick any of his films.
Go to any scene. And watch how everything moves together –You know, it’s the visual stimulation
that hits the audience. That’s the reason for film. Otherwise, we should just
turn the light out and call it radio. Subtitles by the Amara.org community

100 thoughts on “Akira Kurosawa – Composing Movement

  1. Ever dislike a video and don’t feel like pressing the button again so you just leave it disliked but it was actually a really good video

  2. I love your videos, but I cannot for the life of me understand why you would dub these masterpieces with generic, cliched background music. Seems to go completely against your passion for these great movies.

  3. Ive noticed that most anime seems to be influenced by this.

    It puts eastern manga and animation into prospective

  4. "Movement" is only half the coin to "stillness". The totality of a scene is both … in juxtaposition. One amplifies the other. Sometimes I notice the still subject first, as this is like the root note to the scene. Surrounding movement is thus like the melody. Such is the musical artistry of cinema.

  5. I see a lot of similarities between him and Leone and if I had to guess it’s not coincidence. After all fist full of dollars was based on yojimbo

  6. Great video! I love Kurosawa, I haven’t watched Madadayo or Rhapsody in August (they’re on vhs in my living room, I’m just saving them for a rainy day.) Kurosawa is probably the only director who I am completely incapable of doing a top 5 for. This video was a fun reminder of how awesome he is.

  7. Куросава великий и гениальный художник. Я смотрел только один его фильм и очень давно, но не смог понять в чём причина. В этом видео доходчиво объяснили. Спасибо! Надо будет посмотреть больше его фильмов.

  8. 과거의 명작은 과거일 뿐, 시대는 변하고 문법도 달라지고 관점도 달라진다. 비교한 어벤져스의 그 장면에 무슨 무브먼트가 필요했으랴? 오히려 갈등의 주요 인물들이 일을 마친 후의 정적함이 이전 장면들과 대비하면서 진지함을 더 상승시킨다. 이미 상황은 끝나고 영웅들이 진중함을 가져서 새로운 긴장을 만들어내는 시점이었다. 물론 소개된 일본 감독을 폄하할 생각은 없지만 그렇다고 너무 억지로 영화를 까면서까지 띄어줄 것 까진 없어 보인다.

  9. I disagree that the avengers scene camera movement is pointless. it's not pointless. the fact that the camera is moving aka drifting slowly makes the background move whilst the actors are stationary in relation to the background. to me this conveys that the character's minds are stuck in deep negative thought/feeling/emotion whilst the world is still moving on around them. granted it's not a super fantastic edit. some of the movement is pointless and the shot's don't seem to gel together as seamlessly as kurosawa's movies but there is a purpose for the movement of most of the shots and up to a certain extent it does do the job in conveying the emotions of the scene.

  10. No wonder I cannot stand most of new (cough Hollywood cough) films these days. This video explains so much on why classic movies stay classic.

  11. Ok here goes – there's a lot that's wrong or just hand-me-down opinion in this video and to a great extent in all of Tony Zhou's videos that I have seen. First off this is basically a very very amateur study. It's somewhat similar to film school analysis – although not fullblown.
    1) The comparison of Avengers to Seven Samurai is too easy. It's low hanging fruit Tony. Kurosawa was operating in an era when a lot of directors were given too much freedom in the name of the elusive immaterial "artiness" or whatever. The negative side effect result was that a lot of their films had elements in them that stuck out like sore thumbs. Avengers on the other hand is simply a commodity made in an era where the moderate elements of a highly commerce-centric economy have turned into what people are calling advanced stage capit**** – AKA the studios have finally struck upon a perpetual method of reaping insane profits no matter how bad the films are. Avengers is definitely not even in the top 5000 films ever made, but a lot of Kurosawa's films have aged badly as well and a lot "cinephiles" do not dare touch him or critize his work. The acting in some of his films is vastly overexaggerated – he may have thought that it was an artistic choice and like the later works of Antonioni or Fellini or Bergman or many of the French New wave movies of the 60s, many critics and film goers went along with the idea that it was great art – but it was just a fad. There is this little incident that happened to Auguste Rodin wherein he showed his latest creation after finishing it to his students. One by one they all told him that the arms of that figurine were the most beautiful arms ever scuplted – this convinced Rodin that his figurine was an abomination and he proceeded to destroy the arms with an axe. The reason? – he told them that no single part of the figurine should ever outshine the other parts. This is the problem with some of Kurosawa's films too – many elements of his films though beautiful on their own merit stick out like jagged protrusions.
    2) And this is something that film academicians drill into the minds of film students – that you have to deconstruct them in order to appreciate them. Deconstruction is good and all but it's useless if it is not aimed at practically dissembling the film to understand the intention of the filmmaker. Instead they go on and on about how a certain shot is supposed to signify this or that. A lot of the highly regarded Kurosawa films like Hidden Fortress, Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Yojimbo have a few problems with acting, editing and framing which he never resolved. The runtime on Seven Samurai was a bad choice – he should've told the story more economically because the laboriousness with which he establishes the characters is just too unrefined and in the end they get killed in a way that wastes the lenghts to which he went to define the character – I think the story material itself didn't have the full strength to sustain a 180minute+ runtime. Even Mifune's character never fully works well- and finally when the motivation of his character is revealed when he holds the baby – it's just so forced. There are very filmmakers who very few times in their careers made the type of films that are totally engaging visually or otherwise – Even Kurosawa made a few really engaging films only intermittently in his career with some questionable choices in between.
    3) At 2:10 the use of many people in a shot is something that Kurosawa did a lot. Your idea that it multiplies the intensity of emotions just because there's large groups of people is questionable. If anything, I always found the intensity of emotion to completely dissipate and lose it's focus in such scenes.

  12. I'v never seen a Kurosawa film…but here are my top 5 fave films (no particular order!):
    Freda
    Forest Gump
    Sin City
    Young Frankenstein
    Little Big Man
    Camera movement is cool and interesting but….THE STORY IS KING!!!

  13. 4:37 "Notice how much the wind ads to the scene." Wind in the foreground is moving left to right, while the clouds are being blown right to left.

  14. 昔の映画は、文字通り「人が動く画」だったと思う。今のは特殊効果だらけで、味気ないし、興奮もしない。

  15. Toshiro Mifune and Akira Kurosawa made amazing film together. I consider 7 Samurai infinitely superior to "The Magnificent Seven" despite the super cast of the American film.

  16. Avengers Inner decision. How does movement work with inner decision? It doesn't. You have no ability to listen, only to preach "I can do better than academy winners who have attracted more than 10 dollars for their films. You have not attracted 10 dollars or made a film. Piss poos.

  17. 技術が進歩しちゃって工夫がなくなったってことかな。黒沢組とか、山田組とか長年同じスタッフでやるってとこが日本独特のシステムなんじゃないかなって思うけど。日本の映画は、ソロよりバンド、バンド、バンドより一座。オーケストラだと別のオーケストラに動く。カラーになったらなんか印象違うのはカメラの人が往時と違うんじゃない?あと役者、スタイルが良くなってしまって。

  18. I used to look at music the same way when I was learning it.And now its just music.. I mean looking too much into it. Its a study ofcourse so I understand. Bruce lee said it nicely "when I did not know martial arts a kick was just a kick to me and a punch was just a punch. When I was learning martial arts a kick was no more just a kick and a punch is no more just a punch. Now that I know martial arts a punch is just a punch to me and a kick is just a kick to me"

  19. Maybe I'm not wise enough to know, but in my experience there's no point in trying to dissect talent. It's in a person, and nobody can exactly reproduce it by studying it. Sure, you can learn to imitate, but if you're not 'it', the chaotic natural chosen one for this weird thing, and you're never going to have that special thing. That's life. Analyse the ass out of it if you want, but it's pointless in the end. We get what we're given. Oops, but that's negating the academic industry, and all those lifestyles, isn't it – What I can get for myself in this life?

  20. Akira Kurosawa could give movement to the stones, for that and more reasons he is one of the masters of the universal cinema

  21. In Seven Samurai, there is a scene where rice is boiling in a round metal pot held by a wooden hook over a square fireplace cut into a wooden floor with flames crackling, as mingling steam and smoke rise, while vertical rain falls in the background. What you call Kurosawa's "weather," merely follows Indo/Chinese/Japanese elemental theory as an aesthetic statement: all things, the theory runs, are made from essential elements – earth, fire, air water, plus, okay, wood and metal, that in various ways continually transition from one state to the other. So the dynamic of his movies closely relates to how this transition occurs: earth is heated (burning wood) until it melts, (using air through a bellows) when it becomes "liquid" that when cooled becomes another form of earth, metal, which is a combination of earth, fire, air, and water. Clay is baked to form a pot that holds rice, which grows in earth under water, heated by the sun to make it grow, so that it can be cooked in water in a metal pot over a wood fire, that once passed through the human body ( air plus fire equals digestion – water, earth) becomes well, more "earth."

  22. The speeded-up running of the warrior with a flag seems comical and incongruous , but I wonder if it did so to Japanese audiences of the time. I'm guessing not , as the intent does not seem to be ironic or disruptive.

  23. It's just like cooking. Add the right amount of spices, which you are not likely to taste, and the food tastes so much better. The subtle additions are what makes it wonderful. I loved Kurosawa's visual style, but I could not understand why; now I begin to understand

  24. In Japan it rains often windy often too. Also in Samurai era’s capital is famous as ‘city of fire’ because there is large population, tiny wooden houses built tidy at street . That’s what I guess Kurosawa is professional to make ‘scenes’ with any weather action I guess.

  25. Copyright is a monopoly and monopolies tend to lower the quality of things.

    The avengers, star wars and everything under Disney goes rotten, because of monopolistic practices.

    We all should create new stuff and treat monopolized intellectual "property" as dead franchises.

  26. 🍚🍴
    вилка и нож
    Unicode: U+1F374, UTF-8: F0 9F 8D B4
    варёный рис
    Unicode: U+1F35A, UTF-8: F0 9F 8D 9A

  27. Good video. Points out exactly why I cannot see most contemporary films. Back in the day when cinema was beginning all the ideas of motion and composition were poetry and it all meant something not only to the director but the viewer. They got it. Today? Forget it.

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