3 ways Japanese cinema has influenced Hollywood

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May 16, 2011 by Marcin.Wilczek

Japan is well known for a lot of things: Anime, sushi, a flawless work ethic and samurai culture. Yet we tend to forget about the enormous contribution in the field of… film. Here are just three, of the manifold ways the land of the rising sun has influenced Hollywood and world cinema.

3. Japanese horror films change the whole genre

Before Ring almost every western horror movie followed a basic plot pattern that dated back to the good old days of morality plays. Ring, which debuted in 1998 and soon took world theaters by storm changed all that. Instead of focusing on the antagonist and the more or less brutal ways he disposes of his victims, the genre took the film’s protagonist and his, or in most cases her, inner demon and placed them on center stage, with the various external monsters and demons serving as mere background. The west was quick to follow – first with unsuccessful remakes, and later with the incorporation of these principles into into its own narratives.

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2. Over-the-top choreography invades western action films

Not that American action flicks sinned in the plausibility department (Cobra, the Terminator or Rambo, anyone?), but it was the rise in popularity of Japanese styles that brought over-the-top gloriously into the Hollywood lobby. Want wicked hand-to-hand choreography? Or maybe insane sword-fights with a mix of unbelievable acrobatics included? A while back you’d have to search for a film from the Far East (that goes for China, too). Now, you can turn to Sucker Punch or the classic Kill Bill and see the same routines played in movies made in the USA.

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1. Akira Kurosawa

In the film world, this gentleman’s name is usually mentioned among such greats as Hitchcock, Bergman or Spielberg. Unjustly, because he himself probably surpassed all three. The lone inspiration behind such genre defying films as the Magnificent Seven (inspired by his Seven Samurais)  or Star Wars (loosely based on his Hidden Fortress), Kurosawa defined Japanese film for years to come and inspired Hollywood for decades. And he loved Shakespeare.

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