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Film Review: Ran

  • CineVue
★★★★★ During his illustrious career, when asked what he considered to be his best film, Akira Kurosawa would commonly respond "my next one". After 1985, however, his answer changed to Ran. At once gloriously epic and deeply personal, there are clear parallels to be found between the ageing director - who was 73 when filming started - and his crumbling protagonist, Hidetora (an incredible Tatsuya Nakadai). By the time the production began, Kurosawa was almost blind, with his long-time collaborators such as cinematographer Asakazu Nakai and production designer Yoshirô Muraki crafting his vision from descriptions and canvases that the he painted in preparation.
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Criterion Collection: Ikiru | Blu-ray Review

In six decades of filmmaking and thirty plus titles in his filmography, it’s nearly impossible to determine the weighted importance concerning a number of the influential works from Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa, considered by many to be among the most notable directors from Japan, alongside peers such as Mizoguchi and Ozu. Instead, it’s easier to discuss his work in strategic measures regarding theme or motif, such as his famed Shakespearean adaptations or epic Samurai classics, pillaged endlessly by Western filmmakers in proceeding generations. But certainly a definite standout is his 1952 title, Ikiru, which roughly translates as “to live.” A powerfully humanistic title examining the significance of life as something only to be rightly cherished when seen through the lens of death, it stands at the slender end of a filmography generally examining human tendency for apathy, revenge, and other plateaus of self-destructive forces. Moving without being sentimental, Kurosawa
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James Reviews Akira Kurosawa’s Sanjuro Blu-ray Re-release [Criterion Collection New Releases]

The story of the wandering ronin is back once again with the Akira Kurosawa’s underrated 1962 gem “Sanjuro“, a sequel to the wonderful film “Yojimbo”. Toshiro Mifune reprises his role of Sanjuro, just appearing on the screen when the nine samurai are discussing their struggle with the ‘bad’ elders in their clan. Sanjuro just pops up from another room and of course, with his amazing wit, is already involved in the scheme of things. As with the previous film, he somehow finds a way to play the role of ‘anti-hero’ with a wonderful bravado only Mifune knows how to exude on screen. This time around he takes the name Tsubaki Sanjūrō, which translates to “Thirty year-old Camellia Tree”, a little nod to the joke in the first one where he took the name of a nearby plant. And he also adds, like in the first film, that he ‘is almost forty though.
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Criterion New Release Tuesday – March 23, 2010 – Bigger than Life, Kurosawa and Malick on Blu-ray! [Criterion Collection New Releases]

Ah Tuesdays, when our new release thirst is quenched yet again.

This week from Criterion we get some more Akira Kurosawa on Blu-ray, in the form of the re-released Yojimbo and Sanjuro, in both boxed, and non-boxed form. Also receiving a re-release on Blu-ray is Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven. We recently reported a rumor that The Thin Red Line would be receiving the Criterion Blu-ray treatment, and I can safely say that after overhearing some chatter at SXSW, it’s more than just a rumor. Finally, we’re treated to an incredible performance by James Mason in Nicholas Ray’s Bigger than Life, on both DVD and Blu-ray.

All of these releases are packed with supplemental materials, showing the DVD and Blu-ray world that Criterion will remain a name to be reckoned with, no matter how much online streaming increases.

You can find our initial post, announcing these March Releases here.
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Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo – Criterion Collection #52 [Criterion Blu-ray Review]

“You idiot, I’m not giving up yet. Theres a bunch of guys I have to kill first!”

So says Toshiro Mifune as the traveling ronin Sanjuro in Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 jidaigeki film Yojimbo. Mifune stars as Kuwabatake Sanjuro (which means Mulberry Field thirty-year-old, but he tends to take the surname from whatever plant is near him at the time of giving his name). Even though this is a period film with a master less samurai who travels from town to town, looking for food and drink, it feels as if it’s from a time that never was.

Sanjuro finds out the town is overrun by two warring factions, one led by Seibei who is the town brothel owner and the other led by Ushitora, the sake brewer. They’ve been at odds for many years and there seems to be no end in sight from the endless killing
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