MADADAYO (Akira Kurosawa, 1993)

Madadayo, Akira Kurosawa’s final film, is full of singing and laughter. It opens with a steady shot of a closed door; the door is inside the Tokyo university classroom of Professor Hyakken Uchida (Tatsuo Matsumura—a career-capping performance), an actual person, on the day he announces his retirement to his class of adoring students. Soon after, […]

RHAPSODY IN AUGUST (Akira Kurosawa, 1991)

First things first. Akira Kurosawa stated that Hachi-gatsu no kyôshikyoku (literally, In the Stew), based on Kiyoko Murata’s novel, was made for a young audience—for Japanese schoolchildren, who knew little or nothing about the Second World War and how it ended in the Pacific with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I mention this […]

YOJIMBO (Akira Kurosawa, 1961)

Intricate, razor-sharp black-and-white cinematography by Kenji Mizoguchi’s Kazuo Miyagawa gives Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo—literally, The Bodyguard—only the appearance of being a great work of visual art. It entertains but is scarcely important. However, this satirical action-comedy towers above its sequel, Kurosawa’s tedious Sanjuro (1962), and its spaghetti-western remake, Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964) starring […]