Programmed by Daniel Frankel
(Akira Kurosawa, 1948) · Kurosawa's sixth film and his first with Mifune marked two breakthroughs: Kurosawa graduated to auteur-status as he fully claimed his own vision and Mifune became an overnight star. This noir finds Mifune as a young, brooding yakuza with tuberculosis who seeks the treatment of an alcoholic doctor. As their tenuous friendship progresses in the slums of the American-occupied Tokyo, it becomes less and less clear which man assumes the role of drunken angel.
runtime: 98 min format: 35mm
(Akira Kurosawa, 1949) · Kurosawa and Mifune's follow-up to Drunken Angel is yet another noir set in postwar Tokyo. Mifune stars as Murakami, a young detective whose colt compact revolver is pickpocketed on the streets of postwar Tokyo in the pair's second noir in a row. Tormented by the guilt of his negligence, Murakami partners with a senior officer to hunt for the perp using his pilfered weapon. Kurosawa flexes his technical prowess in this riveting crime drama.
runtime: 122 min format: 35mm
(Akira Kurosawa, 1951) · In Japan, Rashomon is a large gate that once stood on Suzaku Avenue, between Kyoto and Nara. It has since given its title to the English language, referring to a situation in which witnesses all give conflicting accounts of the same event. The crime at hand is recounted by the deceased samurai (contacted through a medium), his wife, the woodcutting witness and the potentially culpable bandit, played by no other than Mifune. The ultimate whodunit.
runtime: 88 min format: 35mm
(Akira Kurosawa, 1954) · Kurosawa's classic story of seven ronin who band together to protect a small farm community was the first of his samurai films. While its influence is most obvious in The Magnificent Seven, its story of an unlikely group of heroes banding together is one that has been repeated countless times in action cinema. Mifune was recruited to the film after Kurosawa realized that "six sober samurai were a bore—they needed a character that was more off-the-wall."
runtime: 207 min format: 35mm
(Akira Kurosawa, 1957) · Trade Scottish noblemen for Samurai warriors and you get Kurosawa's interpretation of Macbeth in feudal Japan. Despite the liberties he took with the Bard's tragedy, Kurosawa managed to maintain the spirit of the Shakespearean prose while injecting it with his own characteristic blend of history, vitrol, and gore. The ending with Mifune's body engulfed in arrows may or may not be the inspiration for the pig's blood dump in De Palma's Carrie.
runtime: 110 min format: 35mm
(Akira Kurosawa, 1958) · After war between neighboring provinces, what remains of the losing side's nobility is stranded in enemy-occupied territory. The Akizuki princess and her samurai general seek to escape with her hidden gold reserves to fight another day. But when their evasion forces them among the lower class, they must witness society from below. Told from the perspective of two peasants, Hidden Fortress is said to have inspired Star Wars, which was told by robots.
runtime: 139 min format: 35mm
(Akira Kurosawa, 1960) · Drawing upon the themes of Hamlet, in The Bad Sleep Well, Kurosawa sought to construct a kind of ghost story role-reversal in which the living haunt the dead. In this case, Japanese corporate corruption is on deck, and no man is spared. This was Kurosawa's first film made under the director's independent production company. One of the least seen of the Kurosawa-Mifune collaborations, bad begets bad in this chain of evil that goes all the way to the top.
runtime: 151 min format: 35mm
(Akira Kurosawa, 1962) · This sequel to Yojimbo, which outgrossed even its well-loved predecessor, was originally just going to be an adaptation of a Shuguro Yamamoto short story. But following Mifune's wildly popular turn as the ronin anti-hero in that prior film, Kurosawa rewrote the script to include the character, this time giving him a name: "Sanjuro." Come for the tour-de-force that is Mifune; stay for the final duel and cinema's first arcing blood explosion.
runtime: 96 min format: 35mm
(Akira Kurosawa, 1963) · Mifune is Mr. Gondo, a business executive whose chauffeur's son has been kidnapped, leaving him to decide how much he is willing to sacrifice for someone else's child. Once he does, the ramifications are deeply felt. While the first half of the film is purely theatrical and filmed on a single set, the second act is free of such restrictions, and the multilayered narrative explores the dichotomy of high and low in ways that only Kurosawa's camera could.
runtime: 143 min format: 35mm
(Akira Kurosawa, 1965) · Mifune comes full circle in his final collaboration with Kurosawa. While their working relationship began with Mifune as Takashi Shimura's patient in Drunken Angel, their last effort finds him as Dr. Red Beard, a prickly disciplinarian who upholds the honor of his position. Red Beard marks the end of the golden age of Kurosawa's black-and-white films as well as the end of a tumultuous relationship between the Emperor and the Wolf, two peerless artists.
runtime: 185 min format: 35mm