Akira Kurosawa Film Festival at AMC Castleton Arts 

The works of legenda

The works of legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa receive a seven-day showcase beginning Friday at AMC Castleton Arts (6135 E. 82nd St., 849-3471). Seven classic films will be shown, six of which star Toshiro Mifune, the John Wayne of Japan. All seven are new prints with new subtitles. The films are as follows.

RASHOMON (1950) The first Japanese film to win international acclaim. A woman is raped and her husband killed. The film presents four viewpoints of the incident — one for each defendant — each revealing a little more detail. Which version, if any, is the real truth about what happened?

THRONE OF BLOOD (1957) Macbeth is reimagined as a samurai in feudal Japan in director Kurosawa’s classic adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy. Arrows are prominent in the grand finale.

HIGH AND LOW (1963) Film noir based on Ed McBain’s “87th Precinct” novel King’s Ransom. An executive mortgages all he owns to stage a coup and gain control of the National Shoe Company, with the intent of keeping the company out of the hands of incompetent and greedy executives. After he is told that his child has been abducted, he suddenly needs the money he would use to do that to pay the ransom that will possibly save his child’s life. He is prepared to pay the ransom — that is, until he learns that the kidnappers have mistakenly abducted not his son, but the child of his chauffeur. Now he must decide whether the other man’s child is equally worth saving.

THE SEVEN SAMAURAI (1954) This Far-East Western is considered one of the most influential films ever made, inspiring The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen and numerous heist movies. The film tells the story of a band of seven fighters recruited to help save a 16th century town from attacking bandits.

IKIRU (1952) Kanji Watanabe, a longtime bureaucrat in a city office, learns he is dying of cancer and wants to find some meaning in his life. He finds himself unable to talk with his family and joins a novelist for a night on the town looking for answers. He next spends time with a young woman from his office. Will insight arrive in time? The production features the famous shot of the old man sitting, huddled on a child’s swing as the snow falls at night.

YOJIMBO (1960) This samurai adventure was the prototype for the 1964 Clint Eastwood picture A Fistful of Dollars. Considered to be Kurosawa’s first full-length comedy, the plot centers on Sanjuro, a wandering samurai who enters a rural town in 19th century Japan. After learning from an innkeeper that the town is divided between two gangsters, he plays one side off against the other.

THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (1960) The first Japanese movie in cinemascope, and one of the most expensive Japanese movies ever made at the time, The Hidden Fortress has been acknowledged by George Lucas as a primary inspiration for Star Wars. Two peasant farmers are refugees, trying to return home after a war. They find gold, and a mysterious, powerful-looking man. Princess Yuki Akizuki is to be led through enemy territory, where she may rebuild her kingdom with gold (that they found), which she places in her caravan. She is assisted by her trusted general, Rokurota Makabe (the mysterious man), who insists that she masquerade as a mute farmer. The two peasants, Tahei and Matashichi, assist, as they believe they will get a piece of the gold if they help the princess attain her goals.

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