Kiyoshi Kurosawa

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Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Born (1955-07-19) July 19, 1955 (age 68)
Kobe, Japan
Alma materRikkyo University
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter, film critic
Years active1973–present

Kiyoshi Kurosawa (黒沢 清, Kurosawa Kiyoshi, born July 19, 1955)[1] is a Japanese film director, screenwriter, film critic and a professor at Tokyo University of the Arts. Although he has worked in a variety of genres, Kurosawa is best known for his many contributions to the Japanese horror genre.


Born in Kobe on July 19, 1955,[1] Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who is not related to director Akira Kurosawa,[2] started making films about his life in high school. After studying at Rikkyo University in Tokyo under the guidance of prominent film critic Shigehiko Hasumi,[3] where he began making 8mm films,[4] Kurosawa began directing commercially in the 1980s, working on pink films[5] and low-budget V-Cinema (direct-to-video) productions such as formula yakuza films.[6] In 1981, his 8mm film Shigarami Gakuen (しがらみ学園) was nominated for the Oshima Prize at the PFF (Pia Film Festival). In 1983, after he worked with Shinji Soumai, he released his first feature film Kandagawa Pervert Wars (1983). He became popular after The Excitement of the Do-Re-Mi-Fa Girl (1985) and The Guard from Underground (1992).[7]

In the early 1990s, Kurosawa won a scholarship to the Sundance Institute by submitting his original screen play Charisma. Then, he was able to study filmmaking in the United States, although he had been directing for nearly ten years professionally.[8]

Kurosawa first achieved international acclaim with his 1997 crime thriller film Cure.[9] A year later, he completed two thrillers back-to-back, Serpent's Path and Eyes of the Spider, both of which shared the same premise (a father taking revenge for his child's murder) and lead actor (Show Aikawa) but spun entirely different stories.[10] In March 1999, the Hong Kong International Film Festival presented his first retrospective, a five-title-program including The Excitement of the Do-re-mi fa Girls, The Guard from Underground, Serpent's Path, Eyes of the Spider, and License to Live.

Kurosawa followed up Cure with a semi-sequel in 1999 with Charisma, a detective film starring Kōji Yakusho.[8] In 2000, Seance, Kurosawa's adaptation of the novel Seance on a Wet Afternoon by Mark McShane, premiered on Kansai TV. It also starred Yakusho, as well as Jun Fubuki (the two had appeared together in Charisma as well). In 2001, he directed the horror film Pulse.[11] Kurosawa released Bright Future, starring Tadanobu Asano, Joe Odagiri and Tatsuya Fuji, in 2003.[12] He followed this with another digital feature, Doppelganger, later the same year.[13] Both Bright Future and Doppelganger have nominated for the Cannes Film Festivals[7]

In 2005, Kurosawa returned with Loft, his first love story since Seance.[14] Another horror film, Retribution, followed in the next year.[15] With his 2008 film, Tokyo Sonata, Kurosawa was considered to step "out of his usual horror genre and into family drama."[16]

He has written a novelization of his own film Pulse, as well as a history of horror cinema with Makoto Shinozaki.[17]

In September 2012, it was announced that he would direct 1905, a film starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Shota Matsuda and Atsuko Maeda.[18] In February 2013, it was announced that production of the film had been cancelled before filming could start.[19]

Kurosawa directed a 2012 five-part television drama Penance.[20] Beautiful 2013, an anthology film featuring Kurosawa's Beautiful New Bay Area Project, screened at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in 2013.[21]

Kurosawa's next feature film Real, which stars Takeru Sato and Haruka Ayase, was released in 2013.[22] He won the Best Director award at the 8th Rome Film Festival for Seventh Code later that year.[23]

His 2015 film Journey to the Shore was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival where he won the prize for Best Director.[24][25]

In 2016, his thriller Creepy premiered at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival.[26] The film marked Kurosawa's first cinematic return to the horror genre since 2006.

His 2017 film Before We Vanish was screened in the Un Certain Regard category at the Cannes Film Festival.

His 2019 film To the Ends of the Earth was screened as the closing film in the Piazza Grande program of the 72nd Locarno Film Festival.

In 2020, Kurosawa won the Silver Lion for Best Direction at the 77th Venice International Film Festival for his film Wife of a Spy.[27]

In December 2023, alongside 50 other filmmakers, Kurosawa signed an open letter published in Libération demanding a ceasefire and an end to the killing of civilians amid the 2023 Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, and for a humanitarian corridor into Gaza to be established for humanitarian aid, and the release of hostages.[28][29][30]

Style and influences[edit]

Yasujiro Ozu

Kurosawa's directing style has been compared to those of Stanley Kubrick and Andrei Tarkovsky, though he has never expressly listed those directors as influences.[31] In an interview, he claimed that Alfred Hitchcock and Yasujirō Ozu contributed to shaping his personal vision of the medium.[32] He has also expressed admiration for American film directors such as Don Siegel, Sam Peckinpah, Robert Aldrich, Richard Fleischer,[33] and Tobe Hooper.[34]

In a 2009 interview with IFC, Kurosawa talked about the reason why he has cast the actor Kōji Yakusho in many of his films: "He has similar values and sensitivities. We’re from the same generation. That’s a big reason why I enjoy working with him on the set."[35]

According to Tim Palmer, Kurosawa's films occupy a peculiar position between the materials of mass genre, on the one hand, and esoteric or intellectual abstraction, on the other. They also clearly engage with issues of environmental critique, given Kurosawa's preference for shooting in decaying open spaces, abandoned (and often condemned) buildings, and in places rife with toxins, pestilence and entropy.[36]

In an interview with the Tokyo Art University, where he is a professor, Kurosawa talks about not wanting his directorial style to be too fixed.[37] The interviewer makes reference to Kurosawa's versatility when they talk about Clint Eastwood; Kurosawa says he admires people who can do many things and that he doesn't box himself into one style or one theme. When asked what he wants to try next, he answered: "The next thing I want to do is something I have never done." Kurosawa also mentions that he has seen many films since he was young, and that he knows there are many great films from around the world. Those films motivate him to be a better filmmaker; he always asks himself how to make films that will be memorable for a long time.

In the same article by the Tokyo Art University, Kurosawa names film critic Hasumi Shigehiko as a mentor and early influence in his filmmaking career. Much of Hasumi's influence would go on to shape the core of Kurosawa's filmography. Kurosawa met Hasumi in University, where he was one of the few students to finish his course, and credits Hasumi with teaching him that film is worth dedicating your entire life to. Hasumi and Kurosawa believe that every element of the film matters and should be meticulously planned. Kurosawa has also stated that one of his goals as a filmmaker is to share Hasumi's teachings.


Feature films[edit]

Short films[edit]

  • Vertigo College (1980)
  • Ghost Cop (2003)
  • Beautiful New Bay Area Project (2013)


  • Yakuza Taxi (1994)
  • Men of Rage (1994)
  • Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself: The Heist (1995)
  • Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself: The Escape (1995)
  • Door 3 (1996)
  • Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself: The Loot (1996)
  • Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself: The Gamble (1996)
  • Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself: The Nouveau Riche (1996)
  • Suit Yourself or Shoot Yourself: The Hero (1996)
  • The Revenge: A Visit from Fate (1997)
  • The Revenge: A Scar That Never Fades (1997)
  • Eyes of the Spider (1998)
  • Serpent's Path (1998)


  • Soul Dancing (2004)


  • Wordholic Prisoner (1990)
  • Whirlpool of Joy (1992)
  • Seance (2000)
  • Matasaburo, the Wind Imp (2003)
  • Penance (2012)
  • Foreboding (2017)
  • Wife of a Spy (2020)
  • Modern Love Tokyo (2022, episode 5)[44]

Acting credits[edit]

  • The Funeral (1984) – Assistant director
  • The Legend of the Stardust Brothers (1985) – Customer
  • The Enchantment (1989) – Librarian
  • Stranger at Night (1991) – Taxi rider
  • Reincarnation (2005) – College professor
  • Occult (2009) – Himself

Music videos[edit]


Title Year Published Publisher Ref
映像のカリスマ 黒沢清映画史

(Film History of Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

1992 Film Art Inc. [45]

(Eiga ha Osoroshi)

2001 Seidosha [46]

(technique of Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

2006 Shinchosha [47]
映画のこわい話 黒沢清対談集

(Eiga no kowai hanashi, scary story of film)

2007 Seidosha [46]
恐怖の対談 映画のもっとこわい話 (Eigano Motto Kowai Hanashi, More scary story of film) 2008 Seidosha [46]

(Kurosawa Kiyoshi talking about 21st century movie)

2010 Boid [48]


ロスト イン アメリカ

Lost in America

2000 Digital Hollywood [49]

(Kurosawa Kiyoshi no Kyofuno Eigashi - Scary film history of Kurosawa Kiyoshi)

2003 Seidosha [46]
映画の授業 映画美学校の教室から

(Eiga no Jyugyou, Eiga Bigakkou no Kyoushitsu Kara - Film Class, from class room of School of Cinema )

2004 Seidosha
東京から 現代アメリカ映画談 イーストウッド、スピルバーグ、タランティーノ (Modern American film discussion with Eastwood, Spielberg, and Tarantino from Tokyo) 2010 Seidosha

(Nihon Eiga wa Ikiteiru - Japanese Film is Livning)

2010 Iwanami Shoten [50]

(Eiga Nagabanashi - Long Story about Film)

2011 Little More [51]

Films adapted into novels[edit]

キュア(Cure 1997 Tokuma Bunko [52]
回路 (Pulse) 2001 Tokuma Bunko [52]


Award Year Category Film Result Ref
54th Cannes Film Festival 2001 Prize of Un Certain Regard Pulse Nominated [53][54]
56th Cannes Film Festivals 2003 Competition Bright Future Nominated
61st Cannes Film Festivals 2008 Prize of Un Certain Regard Tokyo Sonata Won Prix du Jury
68th Cannes Film Festivals 2015 Prize of Un Certain Regard Journey to the Shore Won Best Director
70th Cannes Film Festivals 2017 Prize of Un Certain Regard Before We Vanish Nominated
41st Japan Academy Film Prize 2018 Best Director Before We Vanish Nominated [53][55]
77th Venice International Film Festival 2020 Best Director Silver Lion Wife of a Spy Won [56]
Honor Year Ref
Medal with Purple Ribbon 2021 [57]


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Further reading[edit]

  • White, Jerry (2007). The Films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa: Master of Fear. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 9781933330211.

External links[edit]