Kurosawa at 100 (Webster Film Series, July 2-August 2)

 Thanks to the consistency of Kurosawa’s catalogue (and thus the endurance of his oeuvre in the cinematic canon), there are very few clunkers in the series.


In what would have been the year of his 100 birthday, Akira Kurosawa has been turning up all over the place lately. Recently we had the release of a box set of 25 of his films from Criterion (http://www.criterion.com/boxsets/678-ak-100-25-films-by-akira-kurosawa), and repertory houses all over the country have been staging retrospectives of his work. This series of classic Kurosawa films is coming to the Webster Film Series this July, which is the most excited I’ve been about one of their series since they showed a bunch of Fassbinder films in the summer of 2003.
The series begins on July 2 with a week-long run of a new print of ’85s Ran, but the six screenings it is receiving is a testament only to the quality of the print, so don’t get used to it-the 16 other films they’re screening are only showing one night a piece. While all of the standard Kurosawa samurai classics are here—Seven Samurai (July 16), Yojimbo (July 30), Sanjuro (July 25)—there are also a couple of non-samurai treats, some also well known and some not as much. While I’ve been lucky enough in the past to catch film prints of both Rashomon (July 11) and Ikiru (July 12) at various places, I’ve never been so lucky as to see Seven Samurai, although it seems to turn up often enough that I’m sure I would have come across it someday. More excitingly, is the presence of my single favorite films of his, High & Low (July 25), about a botched kidnapping of a child, and also the fantastic but sadly overlooked The Bad Sleep Well (July 24), about a man trying to find his father’s killer. Additionally, a few gaps in my own Kurosawa knowledge are about to be filled, as I have never seen some of his newer films, such as Kagemusha (August 1) or Dreams (August 2), so it will be great to have my introductory viewing of them on the big screen.
Thanks to the consistency of Kurosawa’s catalogue (and thus the endurance of his oeuvre in the cinematic canon), there are very few clunkers in the series. Eventhough I’m not too crazy about Drunken Angel (July 9) or Stray Dog (July 10), two of his earliest collaborations with his best-known star, Toshiro Mifune, both are still perfectly watchable. They just don’t hold up quite as well as practically every other film he ever made.
It’s worth noting that if you plan to go to more than a few of these Kurosawa screenings, the Webster Film Series is selling a special pass-$50 for admission to all 17 films. If it is possible for you to do this, you should go. The only real setback is the length of a lot of Kurosawa’s films; Ran aside, a different film screens every Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of the month-long series, and his films are often in the neighborhood of three hours (Seven Samurai is 3 hours 27 minutes, even), so it will be like having a part-time job if you go to all of them. Still, if you’ve ever spent a weekend rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you have absolutely no excuse. | Pete Timmermann
For more information, including directions and the complete calendar, visit www.webster.edu/filmseries.

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