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Kurosawa's spirit still alive in Montreal

High and Low
High and Low
The Criterion Collection

As I have previously stated, we are not giving up in our Kurosawa celebrations and praises.  If you have been reading, or have ventured off to Cinema du Parc recently, you should know about the centennial celebration for one of the greatest directors to ever have lived.  The next batch of his masterworks that our presented at our biggest repertory cinema only further proves that point.  The greatness and brilliance in a director can be measured in his flexibility.  Wes Craven is a great horror film director, but sadly he is rarely categorized among the best directors.  Stanley Kubrick is such a legend today because of having touched practically every cinematic genre and made it his own.  Kurosawa did the same, and his range as a director over the decades was what the Western world needed. 

On August 19-20, people can attend the special screening of one of Kurosawa's rarest gems, a classic almost forgotten today.  High and Low (1963) is not what people would picture when they think of the director: a police-procedural race-against-time kidnapping thriller.  Of course, the only link being his regular superstar, Toshiro Mifune.  He plays the rich head of a business empire that may be crumbling around him.  The safety of his hilltop mansion looks over the slums and downtrodden of society, until one decides to do something about it: kidnap his son and ask for ransom.  But things get uncomfortable when the driver's son is taken by accident, and the hired help beg Mifune to pay the ransom anyway.  Considered a blueprint for future American police thrillers, and even based on an American crime novel, the suspense sometimes takes a backseat for surprising and shocking social commentary and the differences and struggles between rich and poor. 

On August 19-20-21, we can not only witness Akira Kurosawa's range as a director, but also Toshiro Mifune.  In High and Low, the samurai action star is almost unrecognizable as the ruthless ageing business man, and yet, here he is back in his element.  Throne of Blood (1957) is not often acknowledged as Kurosawa`s best samurai pieces, but it should be given a second shot.  Again the Western influence is there (it is a retelling of Shakespeare`s Macbeth transposed in feudal Japan) but this highly original film has the perfect blend of what an epic should be.  Breathtaking action sequences, thrilling set pieces, and probably the best performance Mifune has ever given.  There are elements of tragedy, horror and action, the way only Kurosawa could blend together.