Akira Kurosawa Film Festival
Saturday, November 6 - Saturday, November 20, 2021
Films include: STRAY DOG (1949), RASHOMON (1950), IKIRU (1952), SEVEN SAMURAI (1954), THRONE OF BLOOD (1957), THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958), RAN (1985)
Akira Kurosawa is unquestionably the best known Japanese filmmaker in the West. This can perhaps be best explained by the fact that he is not so much a Japanese or a Western filmmaker, but that he is a "modern" filmmaker. Like postwar Japan itself, he combines the ancient traditions with a distinctly modern, Western twist.
Driving forward even as the characters wander in circles, Kurosawa's camera is all swift pans and hard curves, one sinewy composition after another
Fernando F. Croce, CinePassion
... a low key thriller set in the uncertainty and turbulence of post-war Tokyo, part film noir and part social commentary with a hard moral.
Sean Axmaker, Turner Classic Movies Online
The young Mifune is a marvelous dichotomy, his restless energy checked by a veneer of surface calm: the composed social face and fierce turmoil underneath.
Sean Axmaker, Seanax.com
Murakami (Toshirô Mifune) is a young and inexperienced detective on the Tokyo police force. While riding a crowded bus on a hot summer day, he discovers that his gun has been stolen out of its holster. Reluctant to lose face by reporting the gun missing, Murakami first dives alone into the depths of postwar Tokyo's poverty-stricken slums and criminal underworld, but when the missing gun is implicated in a crime spree, a more experienced detective (Takashi Shimura) lends his expertise.
Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon is not only a well-made, well-acted film, it is a fascinating exploration of humanity and storytelling.
Sarah Brinks, Battleship Pretension
Not many movies make such an impact that their names enter into the language. Rashomon is such a movie.
Jonathan F. Richards, Film.com
Peter Bradshaw, Guardian
Brimming with action while incisively examining the nature of truth, "Rashomon" is perhaps the finest film ever to investigate the philosophy of justice. Through an ingenious use of camera and flashbacks, Kurosawa reveals the complexities of human nature as four people recount different versions of the story of a man's murder and the rape of his wife.
A thoughtful, existential meditation about the meaning of life and what constitutes a life well-lived, Ikiru is almost guaranteed to prod the viewer to examine his or her own mortality and ponder how, in the end, the scales will tip.
James Berardinelli, ReelViews
Kurosawa achieves the piercing emotion and poetry of the Italian neorealists, but by opposite means: he doesn't make the camera disappear; instead... he deploys his camera so sharply and unerringly that it seems to take X-rays of the spirit.
Richard Brody, New Yorker
Moving without being sentimental, Kurosawa reaches the sort of emotional depths akin to early Frank Capra films, where cynicism was pushed aside by the integrity of the human spirit.
Nicholas Bell, IONCINEMA.com
Mr. Watanabe suddenly finds that he has terminal cancer. He vows to make his final days meaningful. His attempts to communicate his anguish to his son and daughter-in-law lead only to heartbreak. Finally, inspired by an unselfish co-worker, he turns his efforts to bringing happiness to others by building a playground in a dreary slum neighborhood. When the park is finally completed, he is able to face death with peaceful acceptance.
The value of [Seven Samurai] depends not upon its spectacular effects but upon the basic human truths that are forged from the suffering of its characters and buried like spear-points Into the spectator's heart.
R.H. Gardner, Baltimore Sun
Responding to his sensitive, knowing direction, the actors have given inspired performances. Revealed in [Seven Samurai] is Kurosawa's talent for putting violent action on the screen, making it terrifically exciting to audiences.
Wanda Hale, New York Daily News
The outstanding feature of the picture is the photography. At times the camera angles are sensational.
George Yoshinaga, Shin Nichibei/New Japanese American News
A samurai answers a village's request for protection after he falls on hard times. The town needs protection from bandits, so the samurai gathers six others to help him teach the people how to defend themselves, and the villagers provide the soldiers with food. A giant battle occurs when 40 bandits attack the village.
No stage production could match Kurosawa's Birnam Wood, and, in his final framing of the hero -- a human hedgehog, stuck with arrows -- he conjures a tragedy not laden with grandeur but pierced, like a dream, by the absurd.
Anthony Lane, New Yorker
Akira Kurosawa's remarkable 1957 restaging of Macbeth in samurai and expressionist terms is unquestionably one of his finest works -- charged with energy, imagination, and, in keeping with the subject, sheer horror.
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
Throne Of Blood defeats categorisation. It remains a landmark of visual strength, permeated by a particularly Japanese sensibility, and is possibly the finest Shakespearean adaptation ever committed to the screen.
Derek Malcolm, Guardian
Returning to their lord's castle, samurai warriors Washizu (Toshirô Mifune) and Miki (Minoru Chiaki) are waylaid by a spirit who predicts their futures. When the first part of the spirit's prophecy comes true, Washizu's scheming wife, Asaji (Isuzu Yamada), presses him to speed up the rest of the spirit's prophecy by murdering his lord and usurping his place. Director Akira Kurosawa's resetting of William Shakespeare's "Macbeth" in feudal Japan is one of his most acclaimed films.
Kurosawa's calculations pay off in thrills and clever character delineation. The trials of the journey impose heroic imperatives and bonds of loyalty that ennoble even the meanest characters.
Gary Arnold, Washington Post
By introducing comedy into the mixture and telling the tale from an atypical perspective, Kurosawa has differentiated The Hidden Fortress from nearly every similar feudal era Japanese epic ever committed to the screen. This is a masterpiece.
James Berardinelli, ReelViews
Kurosawa stages every scene with an eye toward screen-filling spectacle, [...] But he's also concerned with the characters' journey, and how they change-or don't-along the way.
Keith Phipps, The Dissolve
Japanese peasants Matashichi (Kamatari Fujiwara) and Tahei (Minoru Chiaki) try and fail to make a profit from a tribal war. They find a man and woman whom they believe are simple tribe members hiding in a fortress. Although the peasants don't know that Rokurota (Toshirô Mifune) is a general and Yuki (Misa Uehara) is a princess, the peasants agree to accompany the pair to safety in return for gold. Along the way, the general must prove his expertise in battle while also hiding his identity.
Ran takes film spectacle to new heights. Kurosawa continues not only to extend his own powers but to exploit new technical advances.
David Robinson, Times (UK)
One can hardly watch Ran without feeling a sense of prophecy fulfilled. The tragic results displayed in this film suggest we all need to discern more deeply exactly who we can trust to lead us.
Ed Travis, Hollywood Jesus
Kurosawa may not be Shakespeare, but with images like these, he gets at something about the horror -- and hopelessness -- of being a man that is peculiarly his own.
Paul Attanasio, Washington Post
At the age of seventy, after years of consolidating his empire, the Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai) decides to abdicate and divide his domain amongst his three sons. Taro (Akira Terao), the eldest, will rule. Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu), his second son, and Saburo (Daisuke Ryu) will take command of the Second and Third Castles but are expected to obey and support their elder brother. Saburo defies the pledge of obedience and is banished.