KAGEMUSHA
1980, 20th Century Fox, 179 min, Japan/USA, Dir: Akira Kurosawa

In 16th-century Japan, Lord Shingen Takeda is killed by an enemy sharp-shooter and a condemned thief (Tatsuya Nakadai) who looks uncannily like Takeda must take the ruler’s place. Shakespearean in scope, Akira Kurosawa's epic period drama won the Palme d'Or at the 1980 Cannes Film Festival.


RAN
1985, Rialto Pictures, 160 min, Japan, Dir: Akira Kurosawa

In Akira Kurosawa's epic and existential samurai/Noh theater rendition of Shakespeare's "King Lear," a once-merciless and bloodthirsty Lord Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai) leaves his kingdom to his three sons. As Hidetora attempts to enjoy retirement in his twilight years, he is dropped into a nightmarish hell when filial squabbling and betrayal erupts. In Japanese with English subtitles.


RED BEARD
AKAHIGE
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.


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