Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Writing Life/Movie Musings: What I Mean By "Ferment" And A Little Kurosawa Adoration

I talk a lot about writing something down and letting it sit for a while to "ferment." This is certainly true of my NaNoWriMo novel I'm still working on. I've attempted several times to explain how this works but have never expressed the idea well. Imagine my delight when watching the last film in my Akira Kurosawa film survey, Ran, and finding a quote by the great director himself where he completely nails this idea:
I wrote [Ran] after Dersu Uzala and before the one for Kagemusha. Then I let it sleep in me. It's always a question of ripening, of time, of the duration of the gestation of a work. The definitive script for Ran is very different from the first one I wrote. The development of Ran is spread over seven years. When you write a script, even if you're conscious of its shortcomings, you can't easily change the contents of your own head, so you have to let things ripen, in an unconscious way. That's what I've always done. It's in the course of this ripening that things become simpler and become clearer.
- Interview with Akira Kurosawa in Positif (a French film magazine), October 1985.
I've said this before: after a years long survey of sixteen Kurosawa films which involved watching the films, watching the commentaries and accompanying documentaries, reading accompanying essays, reading Wikipedia entries, reading the appropriate section in the book I picked to accompany me on this journey, The Films of Akira Kurosawa by Donald Richie, I'm confident in stating that Kurosawa is the greatest director that ever lived. And it's not because one film or another (though you could probably make that claim for Seven Samurai alone), it's the entirety of Kurosawa's works. Getting familiar with his films and seeing how they progress in terms of viewpoint, story emphasis, acting, visual style, and message is enough to make me feel comfortable making this claim.

I'm still not done with Ran. I always watch film more than once from start to finish then go back and watch certain scenes I want to take a closer look at. I also watch all commentaries and always watch them at least twice. In fact when I saw Red Beard, I watched the film three times (twice in a row) and watched the commentary three times (twice in row).

Ran is the last Kurosawa film, at least for the purposes of this survey. I'll do a more complete blog post about this film journey when I'm finally done. I've already chosen my next film survey, the films of Luis Bunuel, though I need to select an appropriate book. Hopefully, it won't take me years to complete this survey.

It makes me very happy that at the end I find this lovely quote by the great director about "ripening." It beautifully expresses what I've been struggling to explain about my own creative process.

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