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Feature 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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Feature Thousand Words

Thousand Words: Evil Behind the Mask of Respectability (The Bad Sleep Well, 1960)

The Bad Sleep Well (Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru), a critical portrayal of postwar corporate Japan as a breeding ground for corruption, targets the strong connections between the economy, politics and crime. As a tale of revenge, it recalls Hamlet, but it also echoes the Japanese penchant for vengeance as a dramatic motif. The famous […]

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Feature Four Frames

Four Frames: Drunken Angel (Akira Kurosawa, 1948)

Drunken Angel (Yoidore tenshi, 1948) paints a gloomy portrait of post-war Tokyo, a city in ruins where crime, corruption and barbaric behaviour abound and where people struggle against poverty, violence and tuberculosis, which was a death sentence at the time. The protagonists try to survive in a chaotic society marked by confusion and emptiness, but […]

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Feature 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 […]

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Feature Thousand Words

Thousand Words: An Inner Journey in a Wintry Landscape (Snow Trail, 1947)

In terms of film history, Snow Trail (Ginrei no hate) is worth looking at simply because it marks the screen debut of Toshirō Mifune. The unusual setting of this gangster film, directed by Senkichi Taniguchi and co-written by Akira Kurosawa, is another significant aspect. The hunt for the criminals takes place not in an urban […]

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Feature 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 […]

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Feature Thousand Words

Thousand Words: “No man is an island” (Hell in the Pacific, 1968)

The great outdoors – here a maritime space – is a protagonist in its own right in John Boorman’s two-character film Hell in the Pacific (1968). The two marooned soldiers, played by Lee Marvin and Toshirō Mifune, fight for survival on an uninhabited atoll and fight each other before facing together the hazards of the […]

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Feature Four Frames

Four Frames: Red Lion (Kihashi Okamoto, 1969)

Red Lion (Akage), co-produced by Toho and Mifune Productions, is one of eight films Kihashi Okamoto made with Toshirō Mifune. The action takes place in the 1860s when the feudal system of the Tokugawa Shogunate was on the brink of collapse, and follows Gonzo, a peasant sent back to his native village with the mission […]