Monday, April 19, 2010


Akira Kurosawa's centenary celebration continues all Summer long at the Pacific Film Archive with a 30-film tribute curated by Susan Oxtoby. That's five more than Criterion's AK 100: 25 Films by Akira Kurosawa! But speaking of that gorgeous DVD collector's set, for a limited time, you can save money on your purchase while supporting the Pacific Film Archive. Buy AK 100 at, enter code AKPFA at the prompt, and you'll save 25% off the retail price of $399.95—plus, the Criterion Collection will make a $25 donation to PFA on your behalf.

Though I caught several of these films during
TCM's recent retrospective, I'm all the more excited to see my favorites projected in 35mm prints during the PFA schedule:

Friday, June 4, 2010
Rashomon (Japan, 1950).
Visual proof of the relativity of truth, Rashomon is "one of the most brilliantly constructed films of all time, a monument to Kurosawa's greatness, and a landmark in film history."—James Monaco. (88 mins)

Friday, June 4, 2010
Drunken Angel (Japan, 1948).
Doctor meets tubercular gangster (Toshiro Mifune) in the slums of postwar Japan in this noirish tale, an "effective and searching view of contemporary Japanese life."—Variety. (98 mins)

Sunday, June 6, 2010
Throne of Blood (Japan, 1957).
Kurosawa's Noh-influenced version of Macbeth is "the most brilliant and original attempt ever made to put Shakespeare on screen."—Time. The towering Toshiro Mifune is paired with the legendary Isuzu Yamada in "a partnership of titans."—Film Forum. (107 mins)

Saturday, June 12, 2010
Red Beard (Japan, 1965).
Toshiro Mifune plays a gruff but charitable nineteenth-century doctor in this humanist epic, his last film with Kurosawa. (185 mins)

Sunday, June 13, 2010
I Live in Fear (Japan, 1955).
Toshiro Mifune gives a daring performance as an eccentric patriarch with a neurotic fear of the atomic bomb. "The final effect is overwhelming, and perhaps Kurosawa's most sweeping statement on the human condition."—Film Forum. (100 mins)

Thursday, June 17, 2010
The Lower Depths (Japan, 1957).
Filmed on only one set, Kurosawa's adaptation of the famous Gorky play throws together some memorable characters—raucous thief, oversexed landlady, gambler, prostitute, samurai—in a teeming Tokyo flophouse. (125 mins)

Saturday, June 19, 2010
The Bad Sleep Well (Japan, 1960).
Kurosawa charts corporate evil as a company is torn from within by scandal, greed, and lust. "Enron meets Hamlet."—Film Forum. "Better than Shakespeare."—Francis Ford Coppola. (148 mins)

Sunday, June 20, 2010
Ikiru (Japan, 1952).
In Kurosawa's humanist masterpiece, an ordinary civil servant discovers what it means to live. This Japanese Everyman was perhaps Takashi Shimura's greatest role. (143 mins)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The Hidden Fortress (Japan, 1958).
Toshiro Mifune swashbuckles his way through this supremely entertaining mythic adventure, the plot inspiration for Star Wars. (134 mins)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Sanshiro Sugata (Japan, 1943).
A young man learns dedication and discipline in life—and judo—in Kurosawa's debut film, "a must for Kurosawa admirers."—L.A. Times. With Sanshiro Sugata II. (163 mins)

Saturday, July 10, 2010
Stray Dog (Japan, 1949).
Toshiro Mifune is a driven detective in Kurosawa's bravura Tokyo noir. "A bona fide masterpiece."—Time Out. (122 mins)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010
The Most Beautiful (Japan, 1944).
A semi-documentary drama of life among women factory workers ("not a major work, but the one dearest to me," said Kurosawa). With the lively samurai adventure The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail, "a small triumph of inventiveness and resourcefulness."—TCM. (144 mins)

Saturday, July 17, 2010
Seven Samurai (Japan, 1954).
A ragtag group of samurai band together to protect a village from bandits in Kurosawa's masterpiece, often cited as one of the 10 best films ever made. Seeing it on the big screen, who's to argue? (208 mins)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
No Regrets for Our Youth (Japan, 1946).
Ozu favorite Setsuko Hara stars in this powerful character study of a woman fighting for her rights—and life—before, during, and after the war. Kurosawa's only film with a female lead. (110 mins)

Saturday, July 24, 2010
Yojimbo (Japan, 1961).
Mifune is a sly, amoral mercenary looking to make a fistful of ryo in a lawless town in Kurosawa's tongue-in-cheek anti-epic, which inspired A Fistful of Dollars. "A visually faultless and highly sophisticated satire on violence and human weakness."—Sight and Sound. (110 mins)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010
One Wonderful Sunday (Japan, 1947).
A young couple encounters the pleasures—and dangers—of Tokyo in Kurosawa's city-film, inspired by Frank Capra, D. W. Griffith, and Murnau's Sunrise, and one of the first films to capture the essence and energy of a newly emerging postwar Tokyo. (108 mins)

Saturday, July 31, 2010
Sanjuro (Japan, 1962).
Kurosawa's spirited follow-up to Yojimbo finds Mifune leading a band of comically inept samurai. "A superb parody."—Donald Richie. (96 mins)

Saturday, July 31, 2010
Scandal (Japan, 1950).
A motorcycle-riding artist and a pure-at-heart popular singer are targeted by unscrupulous scandalmongers in this entertaining indictment of journalistic "ethics," inspired by Warner Bros. muckrakers and starring Toshiro Mifune and Yoshiko "Shirley" Yamaguchi. (104 mins)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010
The Idiot (Japan, 1951).
Kurosawa faithfully remakes Dostoevky's The Idiot in wintry Hokkaido, with Toshiro Mifune and Setsuko Hara bringing to life this tale of a pure soul destroyed by a faithless world. "Probably the only Dostoevsky adaptation which carries something of the complexity and dramatic intensity of the original."—Noel Burch. (166 mins)

Saturday, August 7, 2010
High and Low (Japan, 1963).
A kidnapping becomes a moral dilemma for executive Mifune in "one of the best detective thrillers ever filmed.... Both spine-tingling and compassionate."—N.Y. Times. (143 mins)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Dodes'ka-den (Japan, 1970).
Kurosawa's first color film was also his most personal, an expressionist look at the lives of several Tokyo slum dwellers. Music by Toru Takemitsu. (144 mins)

Sunday, August 15, 2010
Kagemusha (Japan, 1980).
George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola helped produce Kurosawa's big-budget return to epic samurai filmmaking, involving a lord and his double (both played by Tatsuya Nakadai) trying to hold a kingdom together. "Probably the director's most elaborate, awesome film ... majestic, stately, cool, almost abstract."—N.Y. Times. (160 mins)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Dersu Uzala (Japan, 1972).
A grizzled native hunter teaches a Russian surveyor how to survive in—and respect—the Siberian wilderness in Kurosawa's environmental epic. "It seems that Kurosawa has created this magnificent film as an elegy to our human heritage."—Peter Coyote. (165 mins)

Thursday, August 19, 2010
The Quiet Duel (Japan, 1949).
In one of his most delicate, introspective roles, Toshiro Mifune plays a dedicated doctor who contracts a deadly disease during the Manchurian War. (110 mins)

Saturday, August 21, 2010
Ran (Japan, 1985).
King Lear in feudal Japan, with Tatsuya Nakadai as the lord who divides his kingdom among his three sons, with disastrous results. "A majestic piece of filmmaking, a lush tapestry of lordly tableaux, ruthless betrayals, and flaming carnage."—Village Voice. (160 mins)

Sunday, August 22, 2010
Ran (Japan, 1985).
See August 21. (160 mins)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Rhapsody in August (Japan, 1991).
Four teens visit their grandmother in Nagasaki, and try to comprehend her (and the city's) memories of the atomic blast, in Kurosawa's eloquent, gentle reflection on war and its aftereffects. "The master is as vigorous and complex as ever."—N.Y. Times. (98 mins)

Saturday, August 28, 2010
Dreams (Japan, 1990).
Dreams come to life in Kurosawa's magical collection of tales drawn from his own dreams. "At once buoyant and extraordinarily passionate, it has the feel of an urgent message to the living and the dead."—Village Voice. (160 mins)

Sunday, August 29, 2010
Madadayo (Japan, 1993).
Kurosawa's final film looks back on the life of a beloved elderly teacher and his students. "Fully engaged and alive, beautifully written, acted, and filmed, meditative, benevolent, humorous; one of the director's greatest works."—Chicago Tribune. (134 mins)

04/20/10 UPDATE: Frako Loden offers Ace Pilot's great guide to Kurosawa's ensemble of actors.

Cross-published on


Brian said...

That Ace Pilots link is great! Thanks Frako and Michael.

I'm excited to fill in some of my Akira Kurosawa gaps with this series, and perhaps revisit a few particular favorites (Rashomon never gets old, and it's been way too long since I last saw Yojimbo and Sanjuro).

I generally prefer Naruse and Ozu to Kurosawa, and have seen more films by them than by their more famous compatriot. But, time and budget willing, I suspect by the end of the summer Kurosawa will have overtaken them in raw numbers of films checked off my life-list, if not in sentiment.

Maya said...

Hey Brian, thanks for stopping by to comment. If it helps out financially at all, you know you are always welcome to be my plus one at any PFA screening.

The film I'm especially looking forward to revisiting is High and Low, which just blew me away when I watched it on TCM.