In addition to being one of the greatest directors of modern film, Akira Kurosawa was also an accomplished screenwriter. However, almost all his works – including his three masterpieces, Rashomon, Ikiru, and Seven Samurai—were group efforts. Kurosawa’s method was unique: each of the writers in the group drafted his own version of the same scene, and the treatment that became the final screenplay was a negotiated blending of the different versions. Shinobu Hashimoto was a key member of Team Kurosawa, and in COMPOUND CINEMATICS, he offers a personal, behind-the-scenes account of his creative collaborations with Mr. Kurosawa.
The story begins in in 1948, as Hashimoto heads off to his first meeting with the famous filmmaker to discuss the project that would become Rashomon. The meeting lasted around two minutes, but it was a turning point in the aspiring screenwriter’s life. Shortly after that, Hashimoto was introduced to Kurosawa’s writing process, which he describes as “multiple people writing the same scene through various perspectives (compound eyes), editing them, and creating a screenplay with the feel of a mixed chorus – that was the chief characteristic of a Kurosawa work.”
In the book, Hashimoto details what it was like to work with Kurosawa and the others on the Team – challenging, frustrating, exhilarating, and ultimately, hugely gratifying. But, when Kurosawa switched to a “straight-to-final draft” method for I Live in Fear (1955) and the films that followed, Hashimoto doesn’t hold back in criticizing both the process and the results.
COMPOUND CINEMATICS provides a rare close-up of both the art and craft of making films, and gives us a deeper appreciation not just of Akira Kurosawa, but of his talented co-writers as well.