Friday, December 24, 2004

The celluloid painter

Akira Kurosawa was a great film-maker, but that was not his only art. An ongoing exhibition at the Mori Art Gallery in Tokyo reveals that his storyboards, by themselves, were something to marvel at. As Julian Satterthwaite writes in the Daily Yomiuri:

Usually seen as a disposable part of the filmmaking process, storyboards here are elevated to an art form in their own right – and if they fall into any genre, Impressionist is probably it.

With more than a few nods to Van Gogh, Kurosawa's work is none the worse for its debt to the masters of the medium.

The director's interest in Van Gogh is most evident in the storyboards for his 1990 film, Dreams, in which a fictional Kurosawa steps back in time to watch the painter in action, and then walks through several of his paintings. In this, it offers a lesson in the circularity of artistic influences, with Van Gogh himself having been much inspired by the work of Japanese artists, particularly Hiroshige.

What stands out in the pictures shown here, however, is the filmmaker's love of movement and change.

Where painting is an unavoidably static medium, film celebrates motion, speed and action. And if Kurosawa's storyboards cannot actually move, they look like they might at any moment.

I wonder, if Kurosawa was born in the 19th century would he perhaps have been one of the great painters? What kind of films would Van Gogh have made? Sorry? No, no, I meant Vincent, not Theo. The guy who cut off his ear.

Link courtesy Chandrahas.

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