Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 47: Thu Feb 16

Dersu Uzala (Kurosawa, 1975): BFI Southbank, NFT1, 6.10pm

This 70mm presentation (also screening on February 27th) is part of the Akira Kurosawa season. You can find the full details of the Kurosawa programme here. Tonight's screening will be introduced by season co-curator Ian Haydn Smith.

Observer review:
In the early 1970s Akira Kurosawa's fortunes and spirit were at a low ebb. He'd been dropped by Hollywood from the Pearl Harbor epic Tora! Tora! Tora! in which he had invested much time and energy. His first colour film Dodes'ka-den was a critical and box-office failure. A crisis in the Japanese film industry had made financing his movies impossible. As a result he attempted suicide. But eventually his career was restored by a Soviet invitation to direct a film version of a non-fiction work he'd loved in his youth, and back in the 1940s he had planned a Japanese version that was aborted, partly due to unsuitable locations but mainly because its themes were in conflict with Japanese militarism. Published in 1923, the book is a memoir by the Russian army engineer Captain Vladimir Arsenyev about his friendship with a nomadic hunter, Dersu Uzala, of the remote Nanai tribe, known at the time as the Goldi people. Uzala twice saved Arsenyev's life while acting as a guide to his surveying expedition in remote eastern Siberia during the first years of the 20th century, the first time in a blizzard, the second after an accident on a raft in a fast-flowing river. Shot on location over a period of nine months, it's an elegiac film of great visual and spiritual beauty about the relationship between an intelligent European raised in an advanced urban world (the tall, handsome Yuri Solomin), and a wise, nomadic Asian in close touch with the wilderness (the stocky, elderly Maxim Munzuk). Both actors are excellent. This humanist masterwork is close in spirit to John Ford and has many of the ingredients of a classic western. The central relationship recalls that between the pioneers and the native Americans in the novels of James Fenimore Cooper, though the violent incidents happen offstage. The film won an Oscar for best foreign language film, and Kurosawa went on to make Kagemusha, Ran and Dreams with backing from Lucas, Spielberg and Coppola.
Philip French

Here (and above) is the trailer.

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