Philip French's classic DVD: Dersu Uzala

(Akira Kurosawa, 1975, Artificial Eye, U)

In the early 1970s Akira Kurosawa's fortunes and spirit were at a low ebb. He'd been dropped by Hollywood from the Pearl Harbor epic Tora! Tora! Tora! in which he had invested much time and energy. His first colour film Dodes'ka-den was a critical and box-office failure. A crisis in the Japanese film industry had made financing his movies impossible. As a result he attempted suicide. But eventually his career was restored by a Soviet invitation to direct a film version of a non-fiction work he'd loved in his youth, and back in the 1940s he had planned a Japanese version that was aborted, partly due to unsuitable locations but mainly because its themes were in conflict with Japanese militarism. Published in 1923, the book is a memoir by the Russian army engineer Captain Vladimir Arsenyev about his friendship with a nomadic hunter, Dersu Uzala,

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