Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Twenty

#20 — Drunken Angel (Akira Kurosawa, 1948) One of film history’s most amazing partnerships between director and actor begins here. Akira Kurosawa cast Toshiro Mifune sixteen times over a span of fewer than twenty years, making the actor feel like the great director’s manifestation of self on screen, in much the same way that Martin Scorsese once admitted he cast Robert De Niro repeatedly in the parts he himself would like to play (presumably Leonardo DiCaprio has fulfilled much the same role in recent years). It could, however, be even simpler than that. Drunken Angel so fully takes advantage of … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 40s — Number Twenty

From the Archive: Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams

According to the gimmicky title scrawled across the top of my radio script (“Reel Thing V: The Final Frontier”), this review was featured in the fifth episode of our weekly movie review program. This was clearly a week in which our modest college town didn’t get very many new films, necessitating a trip to Madison to catch art film screenings there. I’d barely seen any Akira Kurosawa films by this point (probably only Ran, and I may not have even seen that yet), a highly inconvenient fact I tried to cover up in the writing process with only the most … Continue reading From the Archive: Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams

Frears, Kurosawa, Robson, Sturges, Taylor

Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954). I sometimes identify Akira Kurosawa’s Ran as epic filmmaking writ as large as the screen allows. Seven Samurai, made over thirty years earlier, is epic filmmaking in the inverse, pruned and delicate and piercingly intimate. There are major moments to it, too, and scenes of pounding cinematic glory, but what really makes it work is the painstaking intricacy of Kurosawa’s storytelling. There’s a reason other creators return to it time and again, extracting what is useful for their own tales of valor and ironic victory. Kurosawa and his collaborators (Shinobu Hashimoto and Hideo Oguni are … Continue reading Frears, Kurosawa, Robson, Sturges, Taylor

Katzin, Kurosawa, Muschietti, Walsh, Wise

Colorado Territory (Raoul Walsh, 1949). This Raoul Walsh western both locks in on the form and offers a sort of sour, woozy commentary on its many tropes. Joel McRae plays a notorious outlaw who’s sprung from jail and gets himself enmeshed in the fabled “one last job,” a train heist that will net him and his conniving compatriots enough money to allow them to retire for good. Along the way, he also becomes enamored with a lady bandit, the wonderfully named Colorado Carson (Virginia Mayo). Walsh had used the exact same source material to make a film noir crime picture … Continue reading Katzin, Kurosawa, Muschietti, Walsh, Wise