Waiting on the Weather: Making Movies with Akira Kurosawa

kurosawa

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely essential reading for Kurosawa fans

My Kurosawa library is pretty full. Heavy, academic tomes like Stephen Prince’s “The Warrior’s Camera” and informative and personal showcases like Donald Richie’s “The Films of Akira Kurosawa” can do a lot to deepen one’s appreciation for the master filmmaker. Only “Waiting for the Weather” can make you smile, make you feel like you are sitting right there, caught up in the whirlwind of genius holding on for dear life and enjoying every minute of the ride.

Teruyo Nogami is a familiar face to most Kurosawa fans, having appeared in the 2001 documentary “Kurosawa” as well as lending her insights to the various Criterion Collection releases of Kurosawa’s films. I can’t picture her as anything else than a pleasantly smiling elderly woman, little realizing the will-power and strength that must have been necessary to serve as an assistant for the fierce personality of Kurosawa for so many years. Nor did I realize that she helped raise Juzo Itami, one of the greatest of Japan’s modern filmmakers, best known for his comedy “Tampopo”.

In “Waiting for the Weather”, Nogomi, or Non-chan, as Kurosawa called her, waxes nostalgic about all the trials, tribulations, exaltations and boring down-times that went into creating some of the greatest moments ever caught on film. Her entry into the film world came through correspondence with Mansaku Itami, a famous director in his time although now somewhat forgotten, and then continued organically until her being hired on for an experimental new film called “Rashomon”, which would change her life forever. From then on, she was a constant presence on Kurosawa’s set, staying with him even during the dark times of “Dersu Uzala” and all the way until his final film “Madadayo” and his death. She was never a great mover or shaker, just someone who helped get things done, and was an essential piece of the Kurosawa machine.

There are so many scenes and memories in this book that put a human face on Kurosawa, and that are so pleasantly described, that it would be impossible to pick out a favorite. Imagine Kurosawa and his team taking a break from intense work of filming “Rashomon” to climb nearby Mt. Wakakusa and engage in some impromptu late-night dancing and stripping down to their underwear. Imagine sharing a laugh when the cages holding the crows for the climatic scene in “Dreams” were thrown open, and the black birds just sort of wandered around instead of taking off dramatically. This is the kind of nostalgia that Non-chan shares, and every word paints a vivid picture of affection and love for the human being behind the legend.

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