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The connection between Akira Kurosawa and Barenaked Ladies

Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa is one of the most influential figures in the history of cinema. Enjoying a long and fruitful career that spanned close to 60 years, Kurosawa made countless critically lauded masterpieces such as Seven Samurai and Rashomon and has influenced everyone from Quentin Tarantino to Ingmar Bergman. 

Along with these two most famous titles, his other works, such as The Hidden Fortress, also helped him to inspire a generation of young filmmakers, having a transformative impact on popular culture in the process. Reflecting this, Federico Fellini labelled Kurosawa “the greatest living example of all that an author of the cinema should be”, and the king of the Hollywood blockbuster, Steven Spielberg, has constantly namechecked the Japanese director as a critical influence on shaping his own distinct visual style. 

Unsurprisingly, Kurosawa was an unrelenting artist, who never entered a project without considering everything. “When I start on a film I always have a number of ideas about my project,” he once explained. “Then one of them begins to germinate, to sprout, and it is this, which I take and work with. My films come from my need to say a particular thing at a particular time. The beginning of any film for me is this need to express something. It is to make it nurture and grow that I write my script- it is directing it that makes my tree blossom and bear fruit.”

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“A film director has to convince a great number of people to follow him and work with him,” he added when discussing his game-changing approach. “I often say, although I am certainly not a militarist, that if you compare the production unit to an army, the script is the battle flag and the director is the commander of the front line. From the moment production begins to the moment it ends, there is no telling what will happen. The director must be able to respond to any situation, and he must have the leadership ability to make the whole unit go along with his responses.”

When I say that Akira Kurosawa’s impact on popular culture has been multi-faceted, I mean it. It’s not just in film where his indelible imprint is there for all to see, but in music too. Icons such as The Band and Jackson Browne have explicitly mentioned him in their songs, ‘Move to Japan’ and ‘Sergio Leone’, respectively. 

However, there is a song more famous than both of these that pays homage to the legendary auteur, and it’s one we all know and love.

This is the 1998 track ‘One Week’ by Canadian rockers Barenaked Ladies. A transatlantic hit, the song is famous for its hilarious lyrics and multitude of pop culture references. At 1:46, vocalist Ed Robertson raps: “Like Kurosawa I make mad films, okay I don’t make films, but if I did they’d have a samurai”. It’s just one brilliant namedrop in a song that manages to pack in nods to The X-FilesBusta Rhymes and Sting, and another reason why ‘One Week’ is such as classic.

Listen to the track below.

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