Japanese classics

Tokyo Story (1953)
Yasujiro Ozu
Japan
137′
The Hirayamas travel from their hometown of Onomichi to Tokyo to visit their adult children. But the younger generation make them feel more in the way than welcome. It also emerges that their son’s career as a doctor and their daughter’s as a hairdresser are nowhere near as successful as the couple were led to believe from afar. The only one who really makes an effort to spend time with them is their daughter-in-law, Noriko, the widow of the Hirayama’s son who went missing in the war. On the journey home, mother Hirayama is taken seriously ill and the couple have to make an unscheduled stop in Osaka, where another of their adult children lives. In a succinct, objective and non-judgemental manner, Yasujirō Ozu uses images which are as simple as they are magnificent to tell the story of family estrangement and the isolation inherent in modern society. Ozu himself considered Tōky ō Monogatari his "masterpiece" and the 1963 Retrospective of the Berlin International Film Festival, the "film-historical screenings", was dedicated to him. This is the international premiere of the digitally restored version made by Japanese production company Shochiku.
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Utamaro o meguru gonin no onna - Utamaro and His Five Women (1946)
Kenji Mizoguchi
Japan
95′
Utamaro, a great artist, lives to create portraits of beautiful women, and the brothels of Tokyo provide his models. A world of passion swirls around him, as the women in his life vie for lovers. And, occasionally, his art gets him into trouble. Utamaro and His Five Women is a tender, erotic, and provocative story of the difficulties and rewards of creation.
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Bakushu - Early Summer (1951)
Yasujiro Ozu
Japan
125′
Noriko, still single at the advanced age of 28, lives contentedly in an extended family household that includes her parents and her brother's family. An uncle's visit prompts the family to find her a husband.
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Madadayo (1993)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
134′
For his final film, Akira Kurosawa paid tribute to the immensely popular writer and educator Hyakken Uchida, here played by Tatsuo Matsumura. Madadayo is composed of distinct episodes based on Uchida's writings that illustrate the affection and loyalty felt between Uchida and his students. Poignant and elegant, this is an unforgettable farewell from one of the greatest artists the cinema has ever known.
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The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
151′
A young executive hunts down his father's killer in director Akira Kurosawa's scathing The Bad Sleep Well. Continuing his legendary collaboration with actor Toshiro Mifune, Kurosawa combines elements of Hamlet and American film noir to chilling effect in exposing the corrupt boardrooms of postwar corporate Japan.
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Yojimbo (1961)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
110′
The unemployed samurai Sanjuro (stunning as usual: Toshiro Mifune) travels through 19th century Japan to a remote mountain village, where two hostile family clans fight for supremacy by all means. Sanjuro skillfully takes advantage of the rivalries, takes sides here and there and plays both groups against each other in his daring intrigue game.
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The Hidden Fortress (1958)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
138′
In 16th-century Japan, two rival clans wage war against each other. Two poor, greedy peasants try to bypass the front lines and return home. Stumbling across a piece of gold hanging from a tree, they are convinced they are on the trail of the vanquished clan's treasure. In their hunt for the loot, they are surprised by a man who is none other than General Rokurota (Toshiro Mifune). They follow the same route, but it is fraught with pitfalls, as the two peasants only manage to make mistakes in their haste to escape with the gold. Kurosawa's first film produced in CinemaScope, it was primarily aimed at the general public, recounting an epic adventure with plenty of humor and gags. Kurosawa was determined to make this film a success so that he could go on to make more personal films and while it's certainly the most mainstream film he ever made, its quality is on a par with that of his other works. "The Hidden Fortress" gained new notoriety after George Lucas revealed that he had drawn inspiration from it for "Star Wars" by telling a story from the point of view of the weaker characters (in this case, the peasants who become the two droids in Lucas' film).
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Akasen Chitai - Street of Shame (1956)
Kenji Mizoguchi
Japan
86′
Five fates of women from Tokyo's brothel district in the 1950s are the focus of Kenji Mizoguchi's last film, who devoted the majority of his works to the historical and social situation of Japanese women. The theme is shaped by socio-critical commitment, human sympathy and unspeculative openness.
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Sansho Dayu - Sanshi the Bailiff (1954)
Kenji Mizoguchi
Japan
124′
Sansho Dayu is a film about a couple of children from a rich house at the end of the 12th century who fall into the hands of the bailiff. He owes his reputation as an exemplary feudal lord to the merciless exploitation of his slave army. Mizoguchi fluently tells this old legend of need and revenge in beautiful pictures.
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Banshun - Late Spring (1949)
Yasujiro Ozu
Japan
108′
Twenty-seven-year-old Noriko lives with her widowed father, a university professor, in a small house in the tranquil surroundings of northern Kamakura. He is completing a scientific manuscript, aided by his assistant, Hattori. Professor Sonomiya is concerned for his daughter s welfare, and one day suggests she marry Hattori. Noriko only laughs at his suggestion because she is quite happy with her life and knows that Hattori is already engaged. Her aunt Masa, the professor s sister, is the next person to try out her matchmaking skills, and she talks Noriko into meeting Mr Satake. Although Noriko quite likes him, she rejects all thoughts of marriage because she doesn t want to leave her father all alone. When she meets Professor Onodera, an old friend of her father s, in a museum one day and he tells her that he has just remarried, Noriko can hardly disguise her dismay. One of Ozu's favorite themes is the opposing desires of and friction between members of a family even though they feel deep affection and loyalty to each other. Inevitably, these interactions within a family, and particularly the problems which arise between parents and children, will result in some sort of separation. For Noriko it is the separation of marriage, in other Ozu stories it may mean being employed away from home or death. While Ozu is saddened by these events, he also recognizes that they are unavoidable. This awareness of the inherent transience and sadness of human existence is what the Japanese call mono no aware." Beverley Bare Buehrer
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Stray Dog (1949)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
122′
He is still young, the actor who should become known around the world with masterpieces like "Rashomon" or "The Seven Samurai". Here, Akira Kurosawa has created a thriller against the background of the recent and completely unprocessed Japanese war past, of which many of the characters, whether woman or man, talk. "Stray Dog" plays during the sultry hot summer in Tokyo in 1949. The young and completely inexperienced inspector Murakami (Toshiro Mifune) gets his loaded service weapon stolen from his jacket pocket in an overcrowded bus. Murakami is beside himself. He fears the worst consequences for his still young career. Together with his older colleague Sato from the theft department, he sets out on a search for traces of the thief. While we roam about the Japanese post-war setting with him, he gains experiences and learns to keep calm from the old and experienced colleague Sato. Women who are involved in what is going on are also snarling at him as a greenhorn. An impressive milieu study by Akira Kurosawa, in which the master proves himself in the genre film and shows us what he is capable of in narrative, atmospheric and visual terms.
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Dersu Uzala (1975)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
136′
A military explorer meets and befriends a Goldi man in Russia’s unmapped forests. A deep and abiding bond evolves between the two men, one civilized in the usual sense, the other at home in the glacial Siberian woods. The film won the 1976 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, the Golden Prize and the Prix FIPRESCI at the 9th Moscow International Film Festival and a number of other awards.
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Drunken Angel (1948)
Akira Kurosawa
Japan
98′
In this powerful early noir from the great Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune bursts onto the screen as a volatile, tubercular criminal who strikes up an unlikely relationship with Takashi Shimura’s jaded physician. Set in and around the muddy swamps and back alleys of postwar Tokyo, Drunken Angel is an evocative, moody snapshot of a treacherous time and place, featuring one of the director’s most memorably violent climaxes.
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Akibiyori - Late Autumn (1960)
Yasujiro Ozu
Japan
129′
Seven years after the death of a close friend, three middle-aged men plan to arrange a marriage for the dead man’s daughter. But 24-year old Ayako doesn't really want to marry; she would rather continue taking care of her widowed mother. So the three men decide that the best course is to marry off the rather comely mother, Akiko, before the daughter … preferably to one of them. This plants seeds of estrangement between mother and daughter, and the latter begins to seriously consider one of the proposed marriage candidates … «Good grief, it's all very complicated,» we hear at the height of the comic-melancholy imbroglio. Director Yasujiro Ozu tells us the story in the simplest possible, yet artful, way, in images tinged with softness, both in color and language. Late Autum is the third to last film by the great Japanese director and only one of four color movies in his oeuvre. In honor of the 50th anniversary of his death and the year in which he would have turned 110, the original negatives have been used for digital restorations done in consultation with former members of Ozu's crew.
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