If you rent or buy Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film, “Ikiru,” you’ll be treated to an extra disk that contains a documentary about Kurosawa’s filmmaking technique. He discusses scriptwriting, editing, music, lighting, set design and other aspects of producing a movie. Kurosawa introduced many innovations during his long and masterful career, including shooting directly at the sun. Kurosawa used multiple cameras, which forced his actors into a more natural acting style because they couldn’t play to a particular camera. Kurosawa edited all the scenes shot each day so the crew could understand how the story evolved. When his cameraman asked him how long to shoot a close-up, Kurosawa held out his arms to signify how much film he required for the shot.
There is a blatant honesty that can be achieved in true cinema. Great cinema doesn’t make you feel self conscious when you experience it. You become completely absorbed. Listening to Kurosawa in this documentary, in some ways it seems great cinema seems like an accident. But it’s an accident that’s planned, and Kurosawa says that usually only a few scenes in a great movie reach the level of high art. Given the chaos of a movie set, a few scenes of magic are a great achievement.