The most popular Japanese moviemaker of all time, Akira Kurosawa began his career by delving into the state of his nation immediately following World War II, with visual poetry and direct emotion. Amid Japan's economic collapse, moral waywardness, and American occupation, Kurosawa managed to find humor and redemption existing alongside despair and anxiety. In these five films, which range from the whimsically Capraesque to the icily Dostoyevskian, from political epics to courtroom potboilers, Kurosawa established both the artistic range and social acuity that would inform his entire career.
No Regrets For Our Youth (1946)
Yukie (Setsuko Hara), the spoiled bourgeois daughter of a university professor, begins a soul-searching journey that takes her from the elegance of Kyoto to the peasant farms of impoverished rural Japan, the rise and fall of ultranationalism corresponding with her own moral awakening.
One Wonderful Sunday (1947)
Yuzo and Masako, a middle-class couple suffering from economic postwar decline, meet on Sunday in Tokyo with only thirty-five yen to spend. Kurosawa alternates sadness and joy in his depiction of these young lovers adjusting to their nation's new financial realities.
In Kurosawa's look at the abuse of freedom of speech, painter Ichiro (Toshiro Mifune) and popular singer Miyako (Yoshiko Yamaguchi) are photographed together by a paparazzo at a retreat, and are wrongly accused by tabloid journalists of having an affair. Ichiro sues for libel, but his desperate, crooked lawyer Hiruta (Takashi Shimura), playing both sides, doesn't come to his defense.
The Idiot (1951)
In Kurosawa's adaptation and update of Dostoyevsky's classic novel, the childlike ex-POW Kinji (Masayuki Mori) returns home after the war only to become trapped in an existential love quadrangle. Toshiro Mifune and Setsuko Hara also contribute haunting performances in this tale of otherworldly purity.
I Live in Fear (a.k.a. Record of a Living Being) (1955)
In Kurosawa's evocation of nuclear-age anxieties, Toshiro Mifune transforms himself into a wizened Tokyo patriarch so paralyzed by fear of the atomic bomb that he alienates his entire extended family and recedes from society.
Spoken Languages: Japanese, English subtitles.