1965, Janus Films, 185 min, Japan, Dir: Akira Kurosawa

A period film set in samurai times without a sword-wielding hero in sight, this remains one of Akira Kurosawa’s most humanistic efforts. The subject is a run-down infirmary for the poor in feudal Japan where a confident young novice physician, Dr. Noboru (Yuzo Kayama), is sent to begin his career. Expecting to visit only temporarily and then to leave to serve the Shogunate, he is infuriated to learn he must remain at the destitute hospital, which is brimming with society's dying poor, wretched and unwanted. Though he learns that the patients need him, Noboru is quick to take measures that will ensure his termination. But he is foiled at every turn by head man Dr. Kyojio (Toshiro Mifune), otherwise known as "Akahige" ("Red Beard"), whose methods and behavior are as caring and compassionate as they are unconventional and unpredictable. At times RED BEARD veers dangerously close to soap-box philosophizing and pretension. But ultimately the film earns the emotions and ideas it attempts to evoke; the young doctor's heart and mind are forever changed, and we are as enamored of Red Beard and his patients as Noboru is. In Japanese with English subtitles.

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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