Blog Archives

Maadadayo (1993)

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Here we have a sentimental Kurosawa picture about an elderly teacher who, courtesy of his wise (and somewhat cracking) observations of life and times, has gained the veneration of his doting students. The problem for me with this picture was that I didn’t find my old chap particularly likeable. He seemed to me more an idling opportunist with a high opinion of himself than an erudite poet-philosopher worthy of adoration.

The experience of watching Maadadayo will probably be far more … (read more)

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The Bad Sleep Well (1960)

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Few would argue that Akira Kurosawa is one of the greatest directors the world has ever seen. The number of masterpieces he produced is simply staggering. If you look back at the catalogue of his works, you notice that at the heart of many of these great films are partnerships with other extremely talented individuals. His long collaboration with Toshiro Mifune, for example, is usually regarded as one of the greatest director/actor partnerships in the history of cinema. Kurosawa’s work … (read more)

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The Quiet Duel (1949)

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It’s not every day you get to see a film focusing on the medical response to syphilis and the emotional torment of one of the disease’s sufferers.

I can’t say this particular absence in my film viewing habits to date particularly irks me. There’s only so much a spectator can tolerate when submitted to endless studies of a pent-up and remorseful Toshiro Mifune (infected with syphilis) pining in sexual frustration over his (spotless, timid, frail, i.e. stereotyped) wife to never … (read more)

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Sanshiro Sugata 2 (1945)

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After his successful direction of his first film Sanshiro Sugata, and subsequent rise through the ranks of Toho assistant directors in the 1940s, Akira Kurosawa was pressured to make a sequel. The result was 1945’s Sanshiro Sugata II, set five years after the original film and picking up Sugata’s tale as he faces challenges from practitioners of other styles of martial arts.

The film begins with a sequence that mirrors the opening of the first film: Sugata saves … (read more)

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Throne of Blood (1957)

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Fans of Japanese cinema and excellent cinema in general should be no strangers to the works of Akira Kurosawa. Regular readers will have seen me (and others here, too!) swoon and spout hyperbole over many of his films. With good reason, mind you — many of them have become fixtures in critics’ lists of top films: action masterpiece The Seven Samurai, lone samurai classics Yojimbo and Sanjuro, study in truth Rashomon and the colour-drenched epic Ran in particular.

Shamelessly, … (read more)

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Rashomon (1950)

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“I don’t care if it’s a lie, as long as it’s entertaining.” — the commoner in response to the woodcutter and the priest’s accounts of the murder.

So here we have it, a movie featuring a completely unreliable plot that never provides a factual answer to the crucial murder mystery at its core, that pieces together falsehoods, speculations and fabricated accounts one after another, that boldly misdirects viewers right through to its conclusion, and yet has somehow managed to absorb … (read more)

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Drunken Angel (1948)

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This is one of my favourite Akira Kurosawa’s movies set in contemporaneous times – not a saumrai in sight, although Toshiro Mifune appears almost as animalistic and out of control here in his first collaboration with Kurosawa as he does in some of his most famous samurai roles (Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, Yojimbo). He is not the drunkard of the movie’s translated title, however. The alcoholic is Takashi Shimura’s doctor, Sanada, whose contempt … (read more)

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Ikiru (1952)

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You know the story. The terminally ill protagonist is going to spend the final months of his life on a quest for redemption, right? Well, sort of. The thing that distinguishes Ikiru from its countless imitators (I reviewed one of its more distant descendants, the South Korean Short Time, a few months ago) is that the main character, Watanabe, is not such a bad guy to start with. Yes, he is a bureaucrat who has spent his entire life … (read more)

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