Recently, I wrote about the ten movies that have most significantly influenced my cinematic tastes. As you can probably imagine, narrowing down that list was not an easy task; a lot of material got left on the cutting room floor, so to speak. For example, I omitted the genesis of my ongoing love affair with Japanese film—an interesting story in its own right.
It all began during my first semester at college. The professor teaching the introductory History of Motion Pictures course was fond of editing together brief clips in order to quickly and concisely convey the “feel” of a particular genre or movement. One such montage—intended to illustrate how German Expressionism influenced American film noir—included an excerpt from Fritz Lang’s M (namely the iconic image of Peter Lorre’s silhouette creeping across a wanted poster). I sought out a copy of the DVD immediately, along with a few of Lang’s other works—The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, Fury, Metropolis, etc.
Eventually, however, I was no longer satisfied with learning about the purported origins of one of my favorite genres; I wanted to explore how it transcended cultural boundaries. The local Barnes & Noble’s extensive selection of Criterion Collection titles proved to be an invaluable resource, acquainting me with how the French and British reinterpreted the various cliches and narrative conventions.
My research soon guided me to a Japanese postwar crime drama called Drunken Angel, directed by none other than Akira Kurosawa. That was the turning point, leading me not only to Stray Dog and Ikiru, but also to Rashomon, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and many, many more. My focus broadened, first to the Zatoichi series, then to the filmography of Masaki Kobayashi, and next to Kenji Mizoguchi, and Yasujiro Ozu, and Hideo Gosha, and so on.
Just goes to show that film enthusiasm truly is an endless journey: the path I started on more than ten years ago now has developed infinite branches, and I’m still discovering new forks and bends every day.
[Originally written May 1, 2018.]