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Rashomon
A riveting psychological thriller that investigates the nature of truth and the meaning of justice, Rashomon is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made. Four people give different accounts of a man's murder and the rape of his…
Seven Samurai
One of the most thrilling movie epics of all time, Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) tells the story of a sixteenth-century village whose desperate inhabitants hire the eponymous warriors to protect them from invading bandits. This three-hour ride from Akira…
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Tokyo Fiancée
Based on Amelie Nothomb's bestselling novel, Tokyo Fiancee is an entertaining romantic comedy that will appeal to fans of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie and Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation. The young, pixie-like Amelie is in love with all things Japanese, which…
Throne of Blood
A vivid, visceral Macbeth adaptation, Throne of Blood, directed by Akira Kurosawa, sets Shakespeare's definitive tale of ambition and duplicity in a ghostly, fog-enshrouded landscape in feudal Japan. As a hardened warrior who rises savagely to power, Toshiro Mifune gives…
Ugetsu
"Quite simply one of the greatest of filmmakers," said Jean-Luc Godard of Kenji Mizoguchi. And Ugetsu, a ghost story like no other, is surely the Japanese director's supreme achievement. Derived from stories by Akinari Ueda and Guy de Maupassant, this…
Yojimbo
The incomparable Toshiro Mifune stars in Akira Kurosawa's visually stunning and darkly comic Yojimbo. To rid a terror-stricken village of corruption, wily masterless samurai Sanjuro turns a range war between two evil clans to his own advantage. Remade twice, by…
Tokyo Drifter
In this jazzy gangster film, reformed killer Tetsu's attempt to go straight is thwarted when his former cohorts call him back to Tokyo to help battle a rival gang. Director Seijun Suzuki's onslaught of stylized violence and trippy colors is…
Mystery Train
Aloof teenage Japanese tourists, a frazzled Italian widow, and a disgruntled British immigrant all converge in the city of dreams--which, in Mystery Train,from Jim Jarmusch, is Memphis. Made with its director's customary precision and wit, this triptych of stories pays…
Harakiri
Following the collapse of his clan, an unemployed samurai (Tatsuya Nakadai) arrives at the manor of Lord Iyi, begging to be allowed to commit ritual suicide on the property. Iyi's clansmen, believing the desperate ronin is merely angling for a…
Late Spring
One of the most powerful of Yasujiro Ozu's family portraits, Late Spring(Banshun) tells the story of a widowed father who feels compelled to marry off his beloved only daughter. Eminent Ozu players Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara command this poignant…
Ikiru
Considered by some to be Akira Kurosawa's greatest achievement, Ikirupresents the director at his most compassionate--affirming life through an exploration of a man's death. Takashi Shimura portrays Kanji Watanabe, an aging bureaucrat with stomach cancer forced to strip the veneer…
In the Realm of the Senses
Still censored in its own country, In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no corrida), by Japanese director Nagisa Oshima, remains one of the most controversial films of all time. A graphic portrayal of insatiable sexual desire, Oshima's film, set…
The Hidden Fortress
A grand-scale adventure as only Akira Kurosawa could make one, The Hidden Fortress stars the inimitable Toshiro Mifune as a general charged with guarding his defeated clan's princess (a fierce Misa Uehara) as the two smuggle royal treasure across hostile…
Branded to Kill
When Japanese New Wave bad boy Seijun Suzuki delivered this brutal, hilarious, and visually inspired masterpiece to the executives at his studio, he was promptly fired. Branded to Kill tells the ecstatically bent story of a yakuza assassin with a…
The Insect Woman
Born in a rural farming village in 1918, Tome survives decades of Japanese social upheaval, as well as abuse and servitude at the hands of various men. Yet Shohei Imamura, ever the cinematic "entomologist," refuses to make a victim of…
When A Woman Ascends the Stairs
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs might be Japanese filmmaker Mikio Naruse's finest hour--a delicate, devastating study of a woman, Keiko (played heartbreakingly by Hideko Takamine), who works as a bar hostess in Tokyo's very modern postwar Ginza district, who…
An Autumn Afternoon
Yasujiro Ozu's final film was also his final masterpiece, the gently heartbreaking story of a man's dignified resignation to both life's ever-shifting currents and society's gradual modernization. Though widower Shuhei Hirayama (Ozu's frequent leading man Chishu Ryu) has been living…
The End of Summer
The Kohayakawa family is thrown into distress when childlike father Manbei takes up with his old mistress, in one of Ozu's most deftly modulated blendings of comedy and tragedy. Additional Reading: http://www.criterion.com/current/posts/634-eclipse-series-3-late-ozu
Woman in the Dunes
One of the sixties' great international art-house sensations, Woman in the Dunes was for many the grand unveiling of the surreal, idiosyncratic worldview of Hiroshi Teshigahara. Eiji Okada plays an amateur entomologist who has left Tokyo to study an unclassified…
Double Suicide
Many films have drawn from classic Japanese theatrical forms, but none with such shocking cinematic effect as director Masahiro Shinoda's Double Suicide. In this striking adaptation of a Bunraku puppet play (featuring the music of famed composer Toru Takemitsu), a…