Akira Kurosawa – Ichiban utsukushiku AKA The Most Beautiful (1944)

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The Most Beautiful is a wartime propaganda film depicting the efforts of female factory workers in a precision-lens manufacturing plant. It is episodic and anecdotal and very documentary-like. Donald Richie records specific instances of documentary techniques borrowed principally from Russian filmmakers such as the austere and static composition of its scenes. This need not be entertained to any considerable degree: the point is, holistically, the overwhelming impression is one of a document. We see many shots of the lens-making equipment, and through these learn the process of lens manufacture itself. Nearly every scene is segmented with shots of a parade (a military band, a marching platoon of young soldiers, etc.) and the film itself was shot in a real factory, a length to which Kurosawa would rarely go in later work. Continue reading

Akira Kurosawa – Dodesukaden [+Extras] (1970)

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Quote:
By turns tragic and transcendent, Akira Kurosawa’s film follows the daily lives of a group of people barely scraping by in a slum on the outskirts of Tokyo. Yet as desperate as their circumstances are, each of them—the homeless father and son envisioning their dream house; the young woman abused by her uncle; the boy who imagines himself a trolley conductor—finds reasons to carry on. The unforgettable Dodes’ka-den was made at a tumultuous moment in Kurosawa’s life. And all of his hopes, fears, and artistic passion are on fervent display in this, his gloriously shot first color film. Continue reading

Akira Kurosawa – Shichinin no samurai AKA Seven Samurai [+Extras] (1954)

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SYNOPSIS
One of the most beloved movie epics of all time, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) tells the story of a sixteenth-century village whose desperate inhabitants hire the eponymous warriors to protect them from invading bandits. This three-hour ride—featuring legendary actors Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura—seamlessly weaves philosophy and entertainment, delicate human emotions and relentless action into a rich, evocative, and unforgettable tale of courage and hope.
(Criterion Collection) Continue reading

Akira Kurosawa – Rashomon (1950)

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Plot:

As the film opens, three characters seek shelter from a driving rainstorm (it never sprinkles in a Kurosawa film!) beneath the ruined Rashomon gate that guards the southern entrance to the court capital. As they wait for the storm to pass, the priest (Minoru Chiaki), the woodcutter (Takashi Shimura), and the commoner (Kichijiro Ueda) discuss a recent and scandalous crime––a noblewoman (Machiko Kyo) was raped in the forest, her samurai husband (Masayuki Mori) killed as a result of either murder or suicide, and a thief named Tajomaru (Toshiro Mifune) was arrested for the crime. Continue reading

Akira Kurosawa – Shizukanaru ketto AKA A Silent Duel (1949)

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Synopsis
Toshirō Mifune (in the second of many films with Kurosawa), plays a young idealistic doctor, still a virgin, who works at his father’s (Takashi Shimura) clinic in a small and seedy district. However, during the war, he contracts syphilis from the blood of a patient when he cuts himself during an operation. Treating himself in secret and tormented by his conscience and celibacy, he rejects his heartbroken fiancée without explanation. Continue reading

Akira Kurosawa – Ran [+Extras] (1985)

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Plot Outline :

Quote:
At the age of 70, after years of consolidating his empire, the Great Lord Hidetora Ichimonji (played brilliantly by Tatsuya Nadakai) decides to abdicate the throne and divide his domain among his three sons. To illustrate his demand for family unity, Hidetora shows that a single arrow can be easily broken, but three arrows held together are strong. The loyalty the Great Lord dreams of doesn’t happen and his empire falls to family bickering and civil war, with the old lord traveling from son to son in a futile attempt to keep empire and family together. Continue reading