Kurosawa Akira secured his position as a representative Japanese film
director in Japan and abroad when his
won a Grand Prix
at the Venice Film Festival in 1951. Kurosawa is undoubtedly the most
widely known and popular Japanese director-perhaps even the most
famous Japanese-outside Japan.l
would not be an exaggeration to
say that Kurosawa has been almost singularly responsible for the global
recognition ofJapanese cinema as a viable national cinema worth pay-
ing attention to? Without the international success of Kurosawa, it
would have taken much longer for Japanese cinema to achieve the
status of a recognizable national cinema for the non-Japanese audi-
ence and academics. Because of the success of
abroad, the
Japanese themselves realized the significance of the international film
market. The worldwide acceptance of Kurosawa gave them an oppor-
tunity to rearticulate consciously what constituted the national and
cultural specificity of Japanese cinema. Both in and outside of Japan,
the imagining of Japanese cinema as a national cinema has been intri-
cately intertwined with a critical reception and consumption of Kuro-
sawa's films.
Despite his importance and popularity, however, if we examine the
images of Kurosawa more closely, their clarity starts to dissipate. In
fact, the position of Kurosawa in various critical discourses on Japa-
nese cinema is even more problematic than that of such directors as
Ozu, Mizoguchi, or Oshima. For instance, how Kurosawa is treated by
Noel Burch, who reinvigorated an academic study of Japanese cinema
in the late 1970s, is emblematic of a certain critical difficulty surround-
ing not only Kurosawa and his films but also Japanese cinema in gen-
eral. Even though the prewar films of Mizoguchi and Ozu to a large
extent have the greatest "use value" for Burch's avant-garde project, the
pivotal figure for the project's overall coherence is neither Mizoguchi
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