1992, Sony Repertory, 107 min, Dir: Barbet Schroeder

After New York software designer Allison Jones (Bridget Fonda) gives her cheating fiancé the boot, she advertises for a new roommate. She gets more than she bargained for in Hedy Carlson (Jennifer Jason Leigh in a go-for-broke performance), whose mild demeanor masks violent instability. Schroeder and his REVERSAL OF FORTUNE cinematographer Luciano Tovoli add plenty of style to this sharp, well-paced psychological thriller.

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.

1962, Janus Films, 96 min, Japan, Dir: Akira Kurosawa

Director Akira Kurosawa helms this YOJIMBO sequel, utilizing Shugoro Yamamoto’s novel Peaceful Days as a model. Wandering ronin Sanjuro (Toshiro Mifune) decides to help a young samurai (Yuzo Kayama) and his brash cohorts when Kayama’s uncle (Yunosuke Ito), the chamberlain of their clan, is framed by a corrupt superintendent. Much of the humor and character interplay is based on Mifune’s scruffy appearance and the seeming contradiction – at least to the adolescent proper swordsmen – of his consummate, strategic skill. Tatsuya Nakadai is the prime adversary, a proud samurai in the superintendent’s employ who’s every bit as dangerous as Mifune. There’s not nearly as much swordplay here as in YOJIMBO – since the war is mainly one of words and subterfuge – but when the final burst of violence erupts courtesy of Mifune and Nakadai, it’s a dazzling shocker. In Japanese with English subtitles.

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