The American Cinematheque, the organization whose mission is to preserve the integrity and value of cinema with screenings at both the Grauman’s Egyptian and Aero Theater, is currently holding a retrospective of the corpus of Akira Kurosawa at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica. This is the best news about samurai films since Mr. Cruise decided to go yellow-face and “Dancing with Asians” in his galactic quest to rule earth.
Some wonder: Why bother going to a theater to see films that were made half a century ago? With the quality output of the ever diligent people of the Criterion Collection, the advancement of home entertainment centers’ grandiosity, and the sheer xenophobia some people have, going to see a black-and-white film made before most are born doesn’t seem appealing. That is, of course, if you don’t really love film and don’t understand how superior the theater experience is to home viewings when the option presents itself.
Case in point: Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 masterpiece, Rashomon. My first experience with the film was a presentation off of a bad VHS copy on a junky TV that seemed to flatten the images and aural qualities that Kurosawa captured originally on film. The story and dialogue was still intact, but the beauty of the film wasn’t. I liked it, but never loved it.
But now comes American Cinematheque’s Kurosawa Retrospective. The beautiful, lush landscapes of the forests of feudal Japan, the chiaroscuro qualities of light and shadows that literally blanket the flashbacks of each character’s accounts of the death of the husband, and the details in facial expressions in the long shots of the sword fights are that much more alive than on that damn VHS copy.
With the exception of not having Ikiru, the retrospective has done well, with the aforementioned Rashomon, Ran, Yojimbo, and Throne of Blood showing this past week.
This next week we still have everyone’s favorite: The Seven Samurai, the noir film The Bad Sleep Well, the Palm d’Or winner Kagemusha, and ending it all is Dreams, with everyone’s favorite Oscar-less director, Martin Scorsese starring as Vincent Van Gogh.
The Kurosawa Retrospective will be playing until Wednesday, January 31st at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica; 1328 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica. More information at www.AmericanCinematheque.com.