Director: Akira Kurosawa

A prize-winner at the 1951 Venice Film Festival, this was the film that opened the world’s eyes to the hitherto unknown riches of Japanese cinema, and proved hugely influentialoas much for its cinematic bravura as for the moral conundrum at the heart of the story. A nobleman and his wife, travelling through a wood, are set upon by a bandit who kills the man and rapes the womanoor so it seems. The story becomes less clear-cut as we’re shown the incident from four anglesoone version from each of the participants (the murdered man through the voice of a medium), plus the account of a woodcutter who witnessed the events. Who can be believedoif anyone? This meditation on the relative nature of truth has long captivated audiences. But the film’s dominated by Toshiro Mifune as the bandit, giving a performance of such boundless, gleefully savage energy that he makes every other action star of the silver screen seem flatfooted by comparison.
Japan, 1950. English subtitles. Black and white. 87 mins.

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