Celebrating Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, Cinema's Magnificent Two

Up there with such classic director-actor duos as Martin Scorsese-Robert De Niro is the pairing of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune. Fans of their 16 collaborations have much to cheer about this year: the PBS documentary Kurosawa; Stuart Galbraith IV’s study The Emperor and the Wolf; the pair’s growing DVD catalog. Even now, new prints of 12 Kurosawa-Mifune films are unspooling in repertory houses across the country. For a crash course in Kurosawa (above), check out GREAT PERFORMANCES: KUROSAWA (pbs.org/wnet/gperf/shows/kurosawa/kurosawa.html). This online companion to the TV documentary features a list of ”essential films” that includes The Seven Samurai and Red Beard but omits Throne of Blood and Rashomon. Film historian Stephen Prince explains his selections, but as Francis Ford Coppola observed, when it comes to Kurosawa, it can be tough distinguishing between the great and the ”merely very, very excellent.”