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Voicing the CinemaFilm Music and the Integrated Soundtrack$
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James Buhler and Hannah Lewis

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043000

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043000.001.0001

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Listening to Soundscapes in Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala (1975)

Listening to Soundscapes in Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala (1975)

(p.190) Chapter 10 Listening to Soundscapes in Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala (1975)
Voicing the Cinema
Brooke McCorkle
University of Illinois Press

In his overview of Kurosawa Akira’s works, preeminent scholar of Japanese culture and film, Donald Richie, harshly evaluates the director’s 1975 film Dersu Uzala. Citing an increased emphasis on style over “a dynamic sense of character,” Richie argues that “Kurosawa has produced for the first time in his long and outstanding career a rather lifeless film.” Yet what is missed in Richie’s otherwise well-thought-out critique is Kurosawa’s increased concerns about the depictions of environments natural and urban through the film’s sound design. Produced in the early 1970s in the wake of serious environmental problems that plagued Japan’s rapid postwar recovery, the problematic relationship between humans and nature would have figured heavily in the minds of Kurosawa and his audience. In other words, listening to the meticulously crafted soundscapes of Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala allows scholars to reevaluate its importance within Kurosawa’s career and Japanese history more generally.

Keywords:   Kurosawa Akira, Dersu Uzala, soundscape, Japan, environmentalism, nature, 1970s

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