Sanshiro Sugata // dir. Akira Kurosawa
As soon as Sanshiro Sugata was finished, it was submitted to the Interior Ministry and I had to go in for my examination. The examiners were, of course, the censors. Along with them were several already established film directors who made up the board of examiners. For my test these were to include Yama-san (Kajiro Yamamoto), Yasujiro Ozu, and Tomotaka Tasaka, but Yama-san had other business and couldn’t appear. He called me to him to assure me that everything would be alright because Ozu would be there, however, and off I went like a stubborn dog to battle with the stubborn monkey censors.
[ … ]
When the test finally began, it was horrible. In a room with a long table, the censors were all lined up on one side. Down at the very end were Ozu and Tasaka, and next to them an office boy. All of them, including the office boy, were drinking coffee. I was instructed to sit in the single chair on the other side that faced them all. It was really like being on trial. Naturally, no coffee appeared for me. It seems I had committed the heinous crime called Sanshiro Sugata.
The point of the censors’ argument was that almost everything in the film was “British-American.” They seemed to find the little incident of the “love scene” between Sanshiro and his rival’s daughter on the shrine stairs — the censors called this a “love scene,” but all the two did was meet each other for the first time there — to be particularly “British-American,” and they harped as if they had discovered some great oracular truth. If I listened attentively, I would fly into a rage, so I did my best to look out the window and think of other things.
But I reached the limits of my endurance with their spitefulness. I felt the color of my face changing, and there was nothing I could do about it. “Bastards! Go to hell! Eat this chair!” Thinking such thoughts, I rose involuntarily to my feet, but as I did this, Ozu stood up simultaneously and began to speak: “If a hundred points is a perfect score, Sanshiro Sugata gets one hundred and twenty! Congratulations, Kurosawa!” Ignoring the unhappy censors, Ozu strode over to me, whispered the name of a Ginza restaurant in my ear and said, “Let’s go there and celebrate.”
Later Ozu and Yama-san arrived at the restaurant, where I was already waiting. As if to calm me down, Ozu praised Sanshiro Sugata with all his might. But I was not so easy to console, and I sat there thinking how much better I would have felt if I had taken that defendant’s chair and hit the censors over the head with it. Even today the thing I am most grateful to Ozu for is that he prevented me from doing just that.
Akira Kurosawa: Something Like an Autobiography