Donald Ritchie remembers the Emperor.
... in Kurosawa’s films, the major theme is that the heroes are always, from Sugata on, not being but becoming. They live in a present where, though history may indicate, it does not define. You cannot sum up a living person. You can sum up only the dead.
And, of course:
Not that he himself wanted to be remembered. Rather, he wanted his work to be remembered. He once wrote: “Take ‘myself,’ subtract ‘movies,’ and the result is ‘zero.’”
Artists do not talk much of immortality through their art, maybe because they feel it is not necessary to talk about it. They go and do it. The achievement of immortality is a process, one which reaches its full flower only when the creator dies.
I think now, strangely enough, of Steven Spielberg — a director I have mixed feelings about but from whom I have come to always expect something interesting at the very least. At some point there will be no more of his films, and the dynamism will vanish. That's the way we've become accustomed to how he moves from one thing to another, from unabashed populism to ruminative work like Schindler's List or Munich (which, whatever their faults as history or political thinking, cannot be said to be the product of someone who takes their subjects lightly). The mere fact that he always seems to be working on the next thing, the next thing, the next thing — when that's gone, it's going to be rough dealing with it.
I remember hearing about Kurosawa's death: 1998. He had been working on, it was said, an adaptation of The Masque of the Red Death. Nothing of this project remains now but a few notes, meticulously archived on the Internet for those who can read both Japanese and his handwriting. Ninety years, I told myself: who at the age of ninety would even consider starting a project of any scope, let alone the sort that would result in a major feature film? And a year later, Stanley Kubrick died, himself only seventy and only a few days after delivering the final print of Eyes Wide Shut. To know that neither man would ever make another film was like being told Orion's belt had vanished from the sky.