Blog Archives

Yojimbo (1961)

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Ah, Yojimbo. Forgive me for feeling little nostalgic, but once upon a time I discovered a couple of old black & white VHS tapes in the local library that became my entrance to Akira Kurosawa and then through his movies, eventually, belatedly, to the wondrous dimension of Asian cinema. Yojimbo was shorter than the other tape (Seven Samurai) so I watched it first. Ah, Yojimbo … it’s been a while, but thanks for a rather superb introduction.… (read more)

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Sanshiro Sugata (1943)

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I’ve been a huge fan of Akira Kurosawa’s work for a while now, since devouring his samurai films (The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro and others), then moving on to his later work — in particular, the stunning Ran and Kagemusha. Every one has been an excellent film, on all counts: cinematography, writing, acting and direction. Throne of Blood, as well, has some of the most wonderful black and white cinematography I’ve ever seen. So, I … (read more)

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Stray Dog (1949)

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Considered by many to be the master’s first great work, Stray Dog is a superb film noir from the Kurosawa/Mifune team. An entry into that subgenre about an eccentric character on a single obsessive quest about something seemingly not so significant, the movie is pregnant with insight into male psychology, right and wrong, and of course the overarching churn of social change in post-war Japan. Just the very adoption of such an American genre as film noir speaks volumes about … (read more)

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Kagemusha: The Shadow Warrior (1980)

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Akira Kurosawa is one of world cinema’s best-loved directors. Celebrated both in his native Japan and (perhaps especially) overseas, he directed some of cinema’s most enduring and famous stories, and was responsible for bringing Japan’s cinema industry to the world’s attention with 1950’s Rashomon. Fans of action cinema will be (or should be!) familiar with The Seven Samurai, his long but brilliant film tracing the story of a group of samurai hired to protect a village from marauding … (read more)

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Dersu Uzala (1974)

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This is an interesting film. Akira Kurosawa is one of cinema’s most impressive directors, and I’ve a tendency to dribble superlatives when writing about him — my apologies. In any case, you will (or should) know him as the director responsible for The Seven Samurai, Ran, Sanjuro, and many other well-known Japanese films. Most of the films he is famous for are shot in Japan and often set in feudal Japan, telling tales of the samurai and … (read more)

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The Seven Samurai (1954)

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Seven Samurai is quite possibly the most overrated film ever. That’s a shame, because it’s a fine film — one of the finest, in fact — but there is a tendency among certain groups of people (who should know better) to refer to it as THE GREATEST ACTION FILM EVER MADE. Now, this really is stupidity, not only because everybody knows that The Killer is the greatest action film ever made, but also because, frankly, Seven Samurai isn’t an action … (read more)

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Red Beard (1965)

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Thank god for Toshirô Mifune. Heretical as it may be, I can’t say I’m a big fan of this one. This loose and only fitfully engaging drama marks a frustrating end to one of the great director/star collaborations in the cinema, and appropriately Mifune is by far the best thing about it.

Mifune plays the title character, one of those doctor types you see quite a lot in fiction who is both grizzly and deeply humane, and is never less … (read more)

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Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams (1990)

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For starters, I’d have to say that Martin Scorsese doesn’t so much star as appear briefly, but I expect his name had to appear prominently in order for the film to be considered for the Globes (I’m not suggesting any bias, lordy lordy no). And when he does appear, he’s not that impressive.

Okay, sledging aside, I can now review the movie. And a fine movie it is too: Kurosawa uses childhood memories, Japanese traditions, and his own moral views … (read more)

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