Kurosawa ‘Not Yet’ done

A fit but fatigued-looking Akira Kurosawa, at 82, held a 90-minute press conference yesterday to announce the completion of photography on his upcoming film “Madadayo” (No, Not Yet) and to share his views on topics ranging from Japanese gangsters to high-definition TV to his signature dark eyeglasses.

The acclaimed director of “Dodes’ Kaden,””Ran” and “The Seven Samurai,” now editing his 30th film in 50 years, said he doesn’t know what his next film project will be. But he is eager to begin it.

“I don’t have much more time to live,” he joked, when asked why he had made three films in the last three years. “I have to hurry.”

The director also noted that, unlike during the 1960s and 1970s, he can now get his pictures funded in Japan, and is not required to go overseas for financing. “Madadayo,” produced by Daiei Co., Dentsu Inc. and Tokuma Shoten Publishing Co.–owned by Yasuyoshi Tokuma, director general of the currently ongoing Tokyo Intl. Film Festival–will be distributed in Japan by Toho. Kurosawa said he did not know whether it has been distributed abroad.

The director spoke on several topics. In explaining why he doesn’t use HDTV much, he said: “In HDTV every image is clear. It is very far from the way you use the human eye.” As to why he wears dark eyeglasses: “The light is very bad for my eyes, which are not very good.”

He did not address whether there has been any settlement to the $ 500,000 lawsuit Kurosawa has filed against Toho, which has been his principal distributor since he joined the company as an assistant director in 1936. The suit alleges that Toho is not paying the director proper residuals from airings of his films on the local Wowow satellite TV network, operated by Nihon Eisei Hoso Co.

His proposed answer to whether a settlement had been reached was suddenly and very loudly squelched by his son, film producer Hisao Kurosawa, who shouted out from the back of the room that the question was “bad” and should not be answered.

The director himself turned away questions concerning whether he would use Japanese acting giant Toshiro Mifune in another film, and declined to name directors whose work impresses him, saying that any answer could be construed as impolite.

He did decry the alleged Yakuza-related attack on fellow filmmaker Juzo Itami , calling it “unforgiveable,” and said, again, he is eager to get to work on the next film.

“Japanese directors are very poor,” he said. “We must work to eat. When I finish a film I get very lonely. I want to see the crew again. The doctor says to rest, but I don’t like to rest. So I go on.”

“Madadayo,” from a Kurosawa script based on the writings of Hyakken Uchida ( 1889-1971), is about the aging teacher/writer’s relationship with his deeply loyal younger students. As he enters his 60s, they begin throwing him lavish birthday parties, at which he is annually asked if he is “ready to go over to the other side” and meet death. His answer, which is the title of the film, is “No, not yet.”

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