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Iconic Acting and Innovative Filmmaking in Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo

To Mifune Rikiya 11 June 2021, 6.30 p.m. – the opening of a small retrospective of ten films dedicated to the great Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune at the Japanese Cultural Institute in Cologne, Germany. It may not look like a big event, but for me it is the culmination of a long and highly emotional […]

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Features Lost Classics

A manhunt in a period film: Hideo Gosha’s Bandits vs. Samurai Squadron

The recent discovery of Bandits vs. Samurai Squadron (Kumokiri Nizaemon, 1978), a film that I had never seen before, has added a new work to my stock of movies for my research on Japanese film in general and on Gosha’s oeuvre in particular. Not as well known as Goyokin (1969) or Hitokiri (1969), Bandits vs. […]

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Features Widescreen

Self-Isolation Soundtrack: The Music of Seven Samurai

Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai, 1954) is one of those rich and complex films that one never tires of watching over and over again. Much has been written about Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece, but the emphasis has rarely been on music. This article is my very humble attempt to have a closer look at Fumio Hayasaka’s […]

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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 Four Frames Uncategorized

What remains of the Samurai? – Seven Samurai and 13 Assassins

When I was informed about this month’s “double feature” topic, I spontaneously decided to write about Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai, 1954) and Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins (Jusan-nin no shikaku, 2010). On rethinking the matter, I quickly became discouraged. Is it possible to deal in one short article with a masterpiece such as […]

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Features Thousand Words Uncategorized

Visual Poetry: Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood

Inspired by William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Akira Kurosawa created, with Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jo, Japan, 1957), visual poetry: in black and white, light and shade, movement and immobility. Kurosawa does not try to put Shakespearean English into Japanese. Instead, image and rhythm replace words, pointing to the visual nature of Shakespeare’s language. In this way, Kurosawa, […]

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Features Four Frames

Human fragility: Sang-il Lee’s Unforgiven

Sang-il Lee’s Unforgiven (Yurusarezaru mono, 2013) bears many similarities with Clint Eastwood’s eponymous masterpiece from 1992. The storyline and narrative details as well as the characters and the frontier setting of Lee’s remake parallel Eastwood’s Western. This also applies to the insistence on shadows and half-shadows in the interior shots and the symbolic use of […]

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Features Thousand Words

Thousand Words: Kikuchiyo, The Seventh Samurai (Seven Samurai, 1954)

A man scowling while other onlookers appear behind him then pushing his way through the crowd in order to have a better view of a samurai trying to rescue a child held hostage by a thief: this is how Kikuchiyo, the would-be samurai of peasant stock and the figure at the emotional centre of Seven […]

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Features Thousand Words

Thousand Words: Affirming Human Dignity (Samurai Rebellion, 1967)

Masaki Kobayashi’s whole oeuvre is marked by his lifelong preoccupation with the complex relationship between the individual and society, the longing for freedom, and the struggle against oppression. Both as a member of the Japanese Imperial Army (the pacifist Kobayashi was posted to Manchuria during World War II) and as an artist, the filmmaker resisted […]