1953, Janus Films, 94 min, Japan, Dir: Kenji Mizoguchi

An ambitious potter (Masayuki Mori) and his devoted spouse (Kinuyo Tanaka) as well as a kindred couple (Eitaro Ozawa, Mitsuko Mito) are torn apart by the civil-war chaos of 16th-century Japan. Both men realize their material dreams but at a tragic cost to their respective mates. In particular, Mori’s shallow success is reflected in his delirious romance with a ghostly noblewoman (Machiko Kyo), an affair that will drive him to the brink of madness. One of the most poignant evocations of the illusory nature of worldly desires and missed opportunities and one of the most haunting depictions of the supernatural ever committed to celluloid. Winner of the 1953 Venice Film Festival Silver Lion Award. “If poetry is manifest in each second, each shot filmed by Mizoguchi, it is because…it is the instinctive reflection of the filmmaker’s creative nobility. … The director of UGETSU MONOGATARI can describe an adventure which is at the same time a cosmogony.” – Jean-Luc Godard.

1950, Janus Films, 88 min, Japan, Dir: Akira Kurosawa

The film that introduced not only classic Japanese cinema but an exceptional new talent, director Akira Kurosawa, to a widespread international audience. Based on the short story "In a Grove" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, a tragic event involving a husband (Masayuki Mori), his wife (Machiko Kyo) and a local bandit (Toshiro Mifune) is recounted by participants and witnesses yielding conflicting accounts. Kurosawa explores the nature of truth, human fallibility and hope in a story that examines each version of what happened one hot, fateful day in a thick and lonely forest. With exceptional cinematography from the great Kazuo Miyagawa and a phenomenally eclectic score from Fumio Hayasaka, and that's just a start. From the wonderfully theatrical acting to the smooth-like-butter cuts-on-action to the astonishingly visceral orchestration of sound and images, RASHOMON clearly demonstrates Kurosawa's brilliance. In Japanese with English subtitles.

1960, Janus Films, 151 min, Japan, Dir: Akira Kurosawa

Director Akira Kurosawa’s uncompromising exposé of Japanese white-collar crime is a startlingly bleak saga. Toshiro Mifune infiltrates the family of a corrupt businessman (Masayuki Mori) who had Mifune’s father, one of his underlings, murdered. Mifune, having switched identities with a friend (Takeshi Kato), worms his way into Mori’s household by marrying his crippled daughter (Kyoko Kagawa) and becoming best friends with his son (Tatsuya Mihashi) - both of whom are decent and don’t approve of their father’s nefarious connections with dishonest politicians and the underworld. Ironically, it is Mifune’s actually falling in love with Kagawa that lessens his resolve, which sociopath Mori ultimately manipulates to his advantage for the brutally realistic and pitiless conclusion. In Japanese with English subtitles.

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