A Kurosawa retrospective in Los Angeles
15 January 2016
16 January 2016
The information is all here:
I saw Yojimbo and Sanjuro last night. The 35 millimeter prints were fantastic and there was an enthusiastic crowd. While I had seen both of the movies multiple times on dvd and on Hulu, the experience of seeing them on the huge screen, with actual film running through a projector, was even more exciting!
Tonight is Seven Samurai…
16 January 2016
Thanks Leslie for both the link and the report! It’s great to hear that the reception was enthusiastic.
Of the three films, I would say Seven Samurai gains even more than the other two when shown on the big screen. I look forward to hearing your own experience!
Don’t miss High and Low either. Especially the first third, when seen on a suitably large screen, is absolutely mesmerising. It’s like watching gigantic and brilliantly orchestrated Greek statues moving in front of you. The later alley scene is also especially thrilling in the cinema. As is the train scene.
18 January 2016
Yes, Seven Samurai is even more wonderful on the big screen, and the theater was almost sold out, which truly delighted the man who introduced the film. People who had seen Yojimbo and Sanjuro spoke about Mifune on the way out, commenting on how different he was in Seven Samurai than in the previous night’s films.
Tonight, to another large audience, they first showed The Hidden Fortress, so impressive in its wide screen format. This one has moments which are truly wonderful, like the fire dance, Makabe swinging his sword on horseback and the incredible spear fight, but I don’t love it as much, and was waiting for Throne of Blood. To me, it is a horror movie and possibly the most perfectly constructed Kurosawa film I have seen. It is really haunting. When I left the theater, it was foggy outside and the midnight drive home through Hollywood had an elegant spookiness which seemed to carry over from the film.
Before I saw these, I was afraid I had been spoiled by the Criterion dvds and blu-rays I had seen, and the actual films wouldn’t be able to live up to the restorations. However, all the films were obtained from Janus and the prints have been great. I’m very much looking forward to High and Low and The Bad Sleep Well.
19 January 2016
That’s great to hear about Seven Samurai, Leslie!
I fully agree with you that Throne of Blood is the most immaculately constructed film that Kurosawa ever made. The rhythm and flow is just amazing. So much so that sometimes when I pop it into the DVD player just to check something, I end up watching it for much longer than I planned to because it just draws me in. A wonderful, wonderful film.
23 January 2016
A pretty good crowd for High and Low. The quality of the print was, for the first time in this series, problematic. Much of the first half suffered from a soft murkiness, aggravated by projection problems. It looked very different from the crystalline luminosity of the Criterion blu-ray, which makes the film seem so modern and immersive. Later reels were better, though, and my favorite bar sequence was better than ever at twenty-some feet high. I want to go to that bar!
Most people stayed for The Bad Sleep Well and that print was wonderful. So many parts are as brilliant as anything of Kurosawa I have seen — the spectacular beginning and wedding banquet, Wada’s “suicide,” the family cookout at home, Wada’s funeral! (“Time to go.” “Where?” “Your funeral.”) Nishi’s coercion of Shirai at the office. The sound design in these films is much more apparent in a theater, and is especially great in High and Low. But in The Bad Sleep Well, something goes haywire, goes tonally incoherent (literally, with the jaunty, comic instrumental version of Nishi’s whistled tune), and then just dwindles after Nishi/Itakura and Itakura/Nishi arrive at the bombed out munitions factory. The energy is there when Nishi’s hate burns hot. After he tries to salvage his humanity and is sunk in the quicksand of Public Corp, et al., the film doesn’t know how to tell its story any more. Loose ends are tied up, love is affirmed, well-meant mistakes contend with pure evil, but it just doesn’t have the impact it seems it should. Even so, I love this movie a lot!
All each night’s films so far have been preceded by a hilariously misleading trailer for Rashomon, which tries to pin down the scenario by making it seem like a love triangle. It shows Tajomaru kneeling before the wife and begging her to marry him, leaving out the part where Tajomaru says, “Or I’ll have to kill you.” Preceding and following shots of the wife are inserts, not belonging to the film, of kitty cat eyes and a snake.
The next film is Rashomon, followed by Ikiru.
24 January 2016
Leslie: All each night’s films so far have been preceded by a hilariously misleading trailer for Rashomon, which tries to pin down the scenario by making it seem like a love triangle. It shows Tajomaru kneeling before the wife and begging her to marry him, leaving out the part where Tajomaru says, “Or I’ll have to kill you.” Preceding and following shots of the wife are inserts, not belonging to the film, of kitty cat eyes and a snake.
That actually sounds funny! Maybe it’s a part of their attempts to work on the gender diversity issues in Kurosawa series attendance.
It’s interesting though that they don’t use the Janus trailer if they are (I assume) going to use their print of the film. I think it’s a pretty good trailer.
24 January 2016
It looked like a very old trailer, maybe from an early run in the US.
A big audience for Rashomon, which was the 2008 restoration and probably could not look better. Oh, how I love the forest parts of this movie! I wish it had an extended run and I could go see this print many times. It is magical.
The crowd thinned out considerably for Ikiru, and I can’t blame those who weren’t prepared to watch a very long movie about a bureaucrat dying of cancer. Before last night I had been unable to get through this movie. The subject scared me, plus no Mifune. I am that shallow. The print was acceptable, and Ikiru is a great psychological, humanist movie. I am becoming increasingly fond of Yunosuke Ito, who plays Watanabe’s partner in his night of debauchery. Miki Odagiri is charming as his very young gal pal from work who stumbles into a friendship with Watanabe, only to become seriously and very understandably freaked out by this old man who just wants to spend time with her because she is “so alive.” But she inspires in him his greatest idea. Noriko Honma plays one of the women who are trying to have a cesspool in their neighborhood drained and get only the run around from the city government. She was the powerful and weird spirit medium in Rashomon! And so many other actors familiar from other Kurosawa films. It’s amazing to see them melt into these different roles. I am very glad I saw this movie.
Tonight’s the last one, and Mifune is back, in Red Beard.
24 January 2016
Funny twitter pic! The poor guys.
I was unable to watch the trailer link you sent because I’m in the wrong country. But I found the trailer I was talking about. Daiei is responsible for this one, I guess:
24 January 2016
That trailer is pretty good! I thought it was only in Japan where they felt they had to twist the film in its advertising. Didn’t one Japanese poster apparently feature Machiko Kyo in a bikini?
Thanks for the reviews, Leslie, it all sounds wonderful, I just hope its a success and inspires other art cinemas to show more Kurosawa. Rashomon is the only Kurosawa film I’ve seen on the big screen – I was amazed at the difference it makes, despite having seen it several times before, it blew me away to see it as it was originally intended.
25 January 2016
No one had to wait in line for the bathrooms tonight, but not a bad turn out for Red Beard on a Sunday. Wonderful print, great movie, not enough Mifune. If Kurosawa was going to keep Mifune cooling his heels for almost two years, worried about making the payroll for his own production company, it would have been nice to have more than about twenty minutes of screen time for the eponymous character and headlining actor in a three-hour film.
I am lucky to have been able to see all these almost uniformly great 35mm prints, thanks to American Cinematheque. You are right, Ugetsu, it really does make a difference seeing them on the big screen!
29 January 2016
Oh yes, that trailer! The cat’s eyes popping in out of nowhere are hilarious. I would watch this movie!
Thanks so much for the reports, Leslie. It’s great to know that Kurosawa still has a pull on people.
The American Cinematheque in Los Angeles is running a Kurosawa retrospective, starting today and lasting until the end of next week.
For some reason US art cinemas and theatres are generally really hopeless at listing basic information such as “what”, “where” and “when” online, but you can find at least some information on their Tumblr post and their website.