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Features Four Frames

Fighting Social Ills: Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard

In Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard (Akahige, 1965), Dr. Niide (Toshiro Mifune), called “Red Beard”, offers medical treatment cheaply or for free in Edo (as Tokyo was formerly called) in the first half of the 19th century. The nickname Red Beard hints at “red medicine” (komo i gaku), designating the treatment practised by the Dutch (the […]

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Features Thousand Words

Thousand Words: How to be a Human Being (Ikiru, 1952)

The first shot in Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru shows an X-ray. A voiceover reveals that this is the stomach of Watanabe, the film’s central figure, who is terminally ill with stomach cancer. An ordinary man suddenly confronted with death and the futility of his existence, he is desperately trying to find a meaning in life. Kurosawa […]

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Features Screengems

Screengem: Maureen’s Mobile Phone in Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

Nothing can distract from the audience’s cinema experience more than a mobile phone. But in his exquisitely enigmatic, always intelligent and creepy-as-hell Personal Shopper, Olivier Assayas uses this most modern of blank tablets, this smallest of small screens, to ramp up the tension within the big screen – bit by bit, message by message. Kristen […]

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Features Four Frames

Four Frames: Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier, 2011)

Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier’s humanism is most profoundly and movingly on display in his 2011 feature Oslo, August 31st. The film chronicles a day in the life of Anders (Anders Danielsen Lee), a recovering drug addict who is permitted a short leave from rehab for a job interview. Trier follows his protagonist as he reconnects […]

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Features Thousand Words

Thousand Words: Inner Torments and Social Disease (The Quiet Duel, 1949)

In the long opening sequence of Akira Kurosawa’s The Quiet Duel (Shizukanaru kettō), which takes place in 1944 in one of the Southeast Asian countries occupied by the Japanese, a man in a white coat is talking to another man who, dozing, leans against the wall behind them. The second man, his face hidden behind […]