Martial body in Akira Kurosawa’s early films

Martial arts films are characterized by elaborate action pictures. In his famous paper “The Movement-Image” Gilles Deleuze demonstrates the prototype of actions picture with Akira Kurosawa’s film “Shichinin no samurai” (1954). In the martial arts genre, one of the most important characters is that of the sword fighter, which embodies the performance of fighting body of men. The sword fighter plays a significant and poignant role in these films. The portrayal of the sword fighter exists primarily in the historical works of Kurosawa. These works highlight the phenotype of the Japanese martial male which is depicted with images of worriors. Kurosawa’s samurai films also pose the underlying question of ‘Japaneseness’. Other questions raised in Kurosawa’s films are: How the martial bodies are mobilised, critically interrogated and investigated throughout? To which extent Kurosawa’s unique film aesthetic is expressed and the martial body as the spectacle portrayed? How does the inclusion of the indigenous culture manifest itself? The focus of the following presentation aims to examine such questions while centring on the motive of the ‘martial body’. This equally has a close relationship with the transcultural and -national development of martial arts genre. Examples referenced for analysis are Kurosawa’s early films such as “Sugata Sanshirō, 1943) “Sugata Sanshirō, Part II” (1945) and „Shichinin no Samurai“ (1954).

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