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    American Cinematheque and UCLA Partner for Akira Kurosawa Centennial Celebration

    Two-Part Film Festival Begins Tomorrow in Los Angeles Source: American Cinematheque

    The American Cinematheque joins the UCLA Film & Television Archive for a two-part retrospective celebrating the career of one of cinema’s most inventive and artful masters, Akira Kurosawa. Enraptured with the works of classic Hollywood director John Ford, Kurosawa skillfully borrowed elements from American genre films and wove them into the elegant tapestry of his Japanese works, which range from contemporary noirs to epic period pieces. Some of his greatest films include RASHOMON, THE SEVEN SAMURAI and RAN, though these three stunners hardly account for the entirety of his oeuvre, which spanned decades. Kurosawa`s career as a director featured a long-running professional relationship with actor Toshiro Mifune, whose charismatic, hyperbolic presence illuminated many of Kurosawa`s best films. Centennial Celebration: The Films of Akira Kurosawa, Part I— running at the Egyptian Theatre May 14 - 23, 2010— is a retrospective of Kurosawa’s work, co-presented by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, which also will include screenings of DODES’KA-DEN, STRAY DOG, HIGH AND LOW, KAGEMUSHA, HIDDEN FORTRESS, YOJIMBO, SANJURO and I LIVE IN FEAR. Please check the UCLA Film & Television Archive website for the schedule of Centennial Celebration: The Films of Akira Kurosawa, Part II taking place this summer at UCLA. The program will include such masterworks as IKIRU, THRONE OF BLOOD and RED BEARD. The Egyptian Theatre is located at 6712 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood CA 90028. Ticket prices to the theater are $11.00 general, $9.00 students and seniors, and $7.00 for American Cinematheque members. Tickets can be purchased at the theater box office, and by using Complete ordering instructions, parking info, and directions are available on the Egyptian Theatre website. Friday, May 14 – 7:30 PM New 35 mm! RAN 1985, Rialto Pictures, 160 min, In Japanese with English subtitles Arguably Akira Kurosawa`s last masterpiece in a career of masterpieces, this sensually epic and colorfully dream-like samurai/Noh Theater rendition of Shakespeare`s "King Lear" bleeds right off the screen. A once-merciless and bloodthirsty Lord Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai), now old, war-weary and bathing in the spoils of a lifetime of plunder, leaves his kingdom to his three sons, Taro (Akira Terao), Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu) and Saburo (Daisuke Ryu). Trouble arises when youngest Saburo challenges his father`s actions, and he is banished from the kingdom, which is then left completely to his two brothers. As Hidetora attempts to enjoy his retirement in the twilight years, the once high king is dropped into a nightmarish hell when inter-filial squabbling erupts. Kurosawa was seventy-nine years old when RAN was released, and it shows in the easy lyricality and sure-handedness of one who has spent a lifetime making films. Yet it also has an inventiveness and energy which most directors couldn`t achieve at any age. It perceptively focuses on the dark sides of power: jealousy, deceit and betrayal, as well as Japanese ideas of obligation and honor, and, finally, hope and redemption. But the deeply-flawed Lord Hidetora will not leave this world unscathed, as his life will be wickedly spun and shaken. It is not for naught that Kurosawa named this twilight masterpiece RAN (which translates as "Chaos") You do not want to miss this one on the big screen. Saturday, May 15 – 7:30 PM THE SEVEN SAMURAI (Shichinin no Samurai) 1954, Janus Films, 207 min, In Japanese with English subtitles Director Akira Kurosawa’s most famous film is certainly one of the finest movies ever made - a huge, sprawling but intimate, character-driven period epic about an aging swordsman (the great Takashi Shimura) who enlists six other warriors-for-hire (amongst them, Toshiro Mifune, Minoru Chiaki, Isao Kimura, Daisuke Kato, Seiji Miyaguchi, Yoshio Inaba) to safeguard a remote village plagued by bandits. One of Kurosawa’s prime talents as director, aside from his meticulous attention to writing and character development, was his ability to create a lived-in wealth of detail in all of his in-period samurai films. Nowhere is this talent more evident than in this hypnotic evocation of a bygone age. The action film prototype, enormously influential on a legion of filmmakers from around the world, including Sam Peckinpah and Clint Eastwood.

    STRAY DOG © 1949 Toho Co., Ltd.

    Sunday, May 16 – 7:30 PM Double Feature: STRAY DOG (Nora Inu) 1949, Janus Films, 122 min, In Japanese with English subtitles One sweltering summer day, young police detective Toshiro Mifune has his gun lifted from him on a bus. Impatient Mifune’s frenzied efforts to find the homicidal fugitive responsible, both to atone to his superiors and to his calm, middle-aged partner (Takashi Shimura), and to prove his worth as a cop, leave the viewer breathless. Director Akira Kurosawa loved hardboiled American crime fiction, and there is no more conspicuous proof in his early career than in STRAY DOG. An expertly-paced, atmospheric suspense film that more than holds its own against the numerous noirs that were being produced across the Pacific in the United States. With Keiko Awaji, Isao Kimura. HIGH AND LOW (Tengoku to Jigoku) 1963, Janus Films, 142 min, In Japanese with English subtitles Ed McBain`s 87th Precinct mystery King`s Ransom provides an ideal starting point for Akira Kurosawa`s study of a man who must measure the extent of his responsibility to others in a society with a huge gulf between the haves and have-nots. Toshiro Mifune stars as a Yokohama shoe manufacturer who has just arranged a 50-million-yen loan in order to gain control of his corporation. His phone rings and a kidnapper (Tsutomu Yamazaki) demands the very same amount in ransom for his only son. That the kidnapper has taken the son of his chauffeur by mistake only makes the manufacturer`s dilemma worse: must he face financial ruin in order to save the life of another man`s child? The answer lies in this supremely stylish and suspenseful film, as visually and structurally dazzling as it is provocative. With unflagging support from Tatsuya Nakadai as the unassuming head police inspector, Kenjiro Ishiyama and Isao Kimura as dogged police detectives, Kyoko Kagawa as Mifune’s wife and, last but not least, Tatsuya Mihashi as Mifune’s double-dealing personal secretary. Wednesday, May 19 – 7:30 PM Double Feature: DODES’KA-DEN 1970, Janus Films, 140 min, In Japanese with English subtitles Kurosawa’s fascination with slum-life (as seen in THE LOWER DEPTHS) reemerges here in a swirling episodic portrait of various individuals, many of them children, living in destitution in a garbage dump in Tokyo. I LIVE IN FEAR (Ikimono no Kiroku) 1955, Janus Films, 103 min, In Japanese with English subtitles An aging foundry owner becomes so obsessed with the fear of nuclear extermination and the wish to flee to South America that his family has him deemed legally incompetent.

    KAGEMUSHA (The Shadow Warriror) © 1980 Toho Co., Ltd.

    Thursday, May 20 – 7:30 PM KAGEMUSHA 1980, 20th Century Fox, 179 min, In Japanese with English subtitles Co-produced by Francis Coppola and George Lucas during the latter part of Akira Kurosawa`s career when he often had trouble with financing, this winner of Cannes’ Palm de Or is a melancholy epic of disillusionment. When the double (and brother) Nobukado (Tsutomu Yamazaki) of Lord Shingen Takeda (Tatsuya Nakadai), comes across a condemned thief (also Nakadai) who looks uncannily like ruler Shingen, Nobukado proposes an idea to his brother’s court. In a bid to save himself from having to continue life as his brother`s "shadow," Nobukado trains the thief to be the lord`s double. When Shingen dies by an enemy sharp-shooter`s rifle, his military chiefs heed the final request of their lord, and inform the thief he must now double full-time to fool their rivals into believing Shingen is still alive. Yet, how long can the shadow exist without his subject? The film asks, "At some point, may the shadow become the main subject himself?" And, quite crucially, "If it does, will the others realize it?" Kurosawa`s haunting tale fantastically weaves tides of expressive color and smoke, evoking truth and lies, clarity and confusion, devotion and betrayal.

    Friday, May 21 – 7:30 PM Double Feature: RASHOMON 1950, Janus Films, 88 min, In Japanese with English subtitles The film which 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 conlicting 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 ecclectic 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. THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (KAKUSHI-TORIDE NO SAN-AKUNIN), 1958, Janus Films, 126 min. Dir. Akira Kurosawa. The basis for George Lucas’ STAR WARS follows a samurai (Toshiro Mifune) as he transports a high-maintenance princess through war-torn lands, accompanied by a pair of bickering peasants. In Japanese with English subtitles. Buy Tickets

    SANJURO © 1962 Toho Co., Ltd.

    Sunday, May 23 – 7:30 PM Double Feature: YOJIMBO 1961, Janus Films, 110 min, In Japanese with English subtitles One of Akira Kurosawa’s ‘lighter’ (and best) efforts finds sardonic gallows humor permeating a near-perfect adventure film with recognizably human characters. Toshiro Mifune plays Sanjuro, a shiftless ronin who wanders into a starving village beset by a yakuza gang war between two rival clans. To make money as well as amuse himself, he plays them off against each other and nearly gets killed in the process. Tatsuya Nakadai does a memorable turn in a comparatively small role as the pistol-packing dandy brother of one of the bosses. Sergio Leone did an unauthorized remake, the almost-as-good spaghetti western, A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. But Kurosawa, himself, got the idea from Dashiell Hammet’s tough-as-nails 1930’s crime saga, Red Harvest, about a nameless, hard-drinking operative in the midst of a gang war in a small midwestern town. SANJURO (Tsubaki Sanjuro) 1962, Janus Films, 96 min, In Japanese with English subtitles 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 supertintendent. Much of the humor and character interplay is based on Mifune’s scruffy appearance and the seeming contradiction – at least to the proper adolescent swordsmen – of his consummate, strategic skill. Tatsuya Nakadai is the prime adversary, a proud samurai in the superintentdent’s employ 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.

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