''Rashomon,'' ''Ikiru,'' ''Seven Samurai,'' and other films by the legendary Japanese director that you must see


The Core Akira Kurosawa

The 80-year-old Akira Kurosawa has 29 pictures to his credit, 20 of which are available on video. He has never made a bad movie, but his best are pinnacles of craft, art, and epic entertainment. Here’s the A+ list.

Rashomon 1951
The film that made its maker world famous and won him an Oscar, Rashomon is the story of a crime told from four different points of view. The title, taken from the name of the crossroads where the action takes place, has itself become a catchphrase for slippery truths.

Ikiru (Living) 1952
A quiet, searingly unsentimental tale of an aging civil servant (Takashi Shimura) who learns he is dying of cancer and fumblingly comes to grips with life. Depressing, yes, but intensely moving.

Seven Samurai 1954
This Eastern Western is one of the finest action films ever made, with larger-than-life characters and blazing battle scenes. Originally released in a truncated version, Seven Samurai is now available in a full-length director’s cut — it’s over three hours, but there isn’t a wasted frame.

Throne of Blood 1957
Kurosawa transferred Macbeth to medieval Japan, but the movie’s much more than samurai Shakespeare. A bristling, beautifully shot epic, with an arrow-studded ending that’s not to be believed.

Yojimbo 1961
Samurai Toshiro Mifune hires himself out to two feuding families and gets the better of both. With a raffish sense of humor that is most unbecoming in an art-house film, it’s as fun as it is influential.

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