Happy New Year to all my faithful readers and true believers. Welcome to the tenth Battle Royale here at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World. It is an ongoing series that will pit two classic cinematic greats against each other - and you can vote for who is the greater by clicking your choice over in the poll at the top of the sidebar.
For our first Battle Royale of 2013, we are traveling to the Far East. To the Land of the Rising Sun. To Japan, and to the great masters of their long and vast cinematic tradition. It is a battle between the man considered the most Japanese of all Japanese directors and the man known as the most Western. Of course, it is Akira Kurosawa going up against Yasujiro Ozu. It is the great samurai versus the great family man. Granted, Kurosawa was never a samurai, or even a swordsman, and Ozu was never a family man, having stayed single and living with his mother until her death, just two years prior to his own, but these are the films the two directors are most known for making. Sure, Ozu made some social commentary films, and even a gangster film, and Kurosawa made many films that did not involve samurai or ronin, but their signature pieces are family dramas and comedies, or Gendai-geki if you prefer, and samurai, or Jidai-geki if you will, respectively. Yes, there were other great Japanese masters, from Mizoguchi to Naruse to the oft-forgotten Keisuke Kinoshita, but when one thinks Japanese cinema, one surely, fairly or not, thinks of Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa first and foremost. And so, this is the battle we respectfully offer up to you now.
Ozu would come first, making his debut in 1927 (many of the director's early films are now, sadly lost), and hitting it big with his first great film, I Was Born, But..., in 1932. Ozu's career was filled with many great films, mostly centering around traditional Japanese family life and marriage, and he is noted for influencing many a future filmmaker, most notably, his Battle Royale opponent. Kurosawa made his first film in 1943, and through the help and encouragement of Ozu (he championed the younger director's first film, and helped to get it a wide audience), and came to great prominence, both inside Japan, and, in a real first for a Japanese director, across the globe, in the early 1950's, as films such as Rashomon and Seven Samurai made their way around the then-budding festival circuit. To this day - fifty years after Ozu's death and final film, and almost twenty after Kurosawa's - these are still the two Japanese directors with which most western cinephiles identify. Ozu is still considered the great master of classic Japanese cinema. While everyone was making a big deal over Vertigo topping Citizen Kane in the most recent Sight & Sound critic's poll, Ozu's subtle masterpiece, Tokyo Story, was quietly voted the greatest film of all-time in that same organization's director's poll. Meanwhile, Kurosawa is the more well-known name here in the west, and his Seven Samurai is pretty much a lock for any self-respecting greatest films list. I know it is on mine.
So there ya have it kiddies. Who will you pick as the greatest of the Japanese Masters? All you need do is to go on over to the poll, found conveniently near the top of the sidebar of this very same site, and click on who you think is the greater of these cinematic legends. And remember, you can comment all you wish (and please do comment - we can never have too many of those - and it will make me feel less lonely) but in order for your vote to be counted, you must vote in the actual poll. After doing that, then you can come back over here and leave all the comments your little hearts desire. Who knows, maybe we will get some sort of lively cinematic discussion going. And also please remember to tell everyone you know to get out the vote as well. I would like to see us reach triple digits in votes. Voting will go until midnight, EST, the night of Friday, Jan. 11th (just over two weeks from the starting gate). The results will be announced the following day. So get out there and vote vote vote.