Last weekend, 6-7 November, LFM ITB in collaboration with Japan Foundation held a movie screening titled ‘Ganesha Exhibition Programme: 100 Years of Akira Kurosawa’. As the name suggests, the event was held to celebrate the 100th birthday of the legendary Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa, whose masterpieces have become a strong inspiration to the international cinema and influenced many world-class filmmakers including the likes of Roman Polanski and Francis Ford Coppola, and now he has influenced the youth of Bandung as well through his beautiful works.
It didn’t occur to me how intricately touching Kurosawa’s films are before I was assigned to head the event division for the screening. As the main coordinator taking care of how the event would run down, I feel the urgency to fathom first the life and times of the man himself. Tracking down the infos about the six movies to be screened (in case you’re wondering: Ikiru, Red Beard, Seven Samurai, Dodesukaden, Yojimbo, Stray Dog), what struck me was how high the regards held by the international public of him — not only as a brilliant director, but also as an innovative mind in the film world as a whole, giving the western cinema world something totally new to appreciate. He strived for perfection in his works, making sure everything is well-prepared from scriptwriting to cinematography, resulting in 30 films throughout his career that the world highly appreciate until now, boosting him to fame along with two of his most frequent collaborators, actors Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura.
My personal favorite is Ikiru. At almost two and a half hour, it might exhaust some to watch such a sentimental drama, but I see it as Kurosawa’s best way to express a deeply touching tale of human mortality, accompanied by excellent performance from one of Kurosawa’s regulars, Takashi Shimura. He portrays an award-worthy performance of an aged bureaucrat who found out that he has to find a purpose in his life as soon as possible due to a gastric cancer he only recently discovered, and at the end only from helping others he could finally give his life a meaning.
What exhilarates me more is that on the 2-days run of the screening, the films were played not from Criterion DVDs or torrented AVI files, but from a real, classic 35mm movie projector. The kind that hums and clanks every minute or so, and the film had to be rolled manually by the operator before being inserted. As I sat on the comfy seat of the sophisticated ITB Campus Center auditorium that had been turned into a 100-seat theater by putting on a white screen, it was a certain kind of excitement, a soft satisfactory feeling that overwhelmed me. Sitting in a dark room, projected on screen are black and white movies from the 1950s where everybody I saw acting in it would be now either have died or very old — watching it along with random fellows from everywhere that just happen to also like Kurosawa’s hardly accessible works or just simply trying things out, with the film being projected from a machine in the back of the room, soft clinking sound of operator manually rolling up a reel in the background, the switching between the first projector to the second every time the ‘cigarette burn’ (as Tyler Durden would put it) shows in the film indicating the end of the reel is near, listening to the optical sound of a 35mm film print, and holding a discussion session with people that share the passion and possibly memories of watching Kurosawa’s films…
I think I’ve found one of my little joys of life.
And now I’m drooling over this AK 100 Criterion boxset.