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.


DERSU UZALA
1975, Kino International, 141 min, Russia/Japan, Dir: Akira Kurosawa

Director Akira Kurosawa was pulling himself out of a suicidal depression when he agreed to helm this Soviet-Japanese co-production, which went on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film. When Captain Vladimir (Yuri Solomin) and his Siberian forest expedition meet a diminutive mountain man, Dersu Uzala (Maksim Munzuk), at their rural campsite, a friendship begins that will span decades. Kurosawa perceptively and subtly explores the inevitable clash of civilization and nature, focusing on a relationship between two men who are very different yet share a kindred spirit. From Siberia’s beautiful wooded landscapes to its pitiless, snow-ravaged wastes comes this timeless evocation of man’s fateful, often fractured place in the world. In Russian and Chinese with English subtitles.


THRONE OF BLOOD
KUMONOSU JO
1957, Janus Films, 110 min, Japan, Dir: Akira Kurosawa

As its alternate English titles (COBWEB CASTLE and CASTLE OF THE SPIDER’S WEB) suggest, director Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a chilling blend of gothic melodrama and samurai swordplay, Elizabethan tragedy and Noh theater. Taketori Washizu (Toshiro Mifune), inspired by a ghostly vision and coaxed by his frighteningly ambitious spouse, Lady Asaji (Isuzu Yamada), conspires to murder his lord to rise in the ranks to become eventual ruler. In the process, he betrays friends and foes alike, is driven to madness along with his cold-hearted spouse and is overwhelmed by the violent forces of chaos. With Takashi Shimura, Minoru Chiaki, Akira Kubo. "Kurosawa’s THRONE OF BLOOD is the grisliest Macbeth you’re likely ever to see. It’s powerful filmmaking and provides much revelatory cultural frisson. It also features some of the best work of Kurosawa’s alter ego Toshiro Mifune." – Marjorie Baumgarten, Austin Chronicle. In Japanese with English subtitles.


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