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A bold examination of humanity, unrivaled in the history of film. Kurosawa's greatest work, in my opinion.
The Sword of Doom (1966)
Many people think of Seven Samurai as the definitive samurai film. Those people are wrong. This is the definitive samurai film.
A grand work of mystery, beauty and tragedy. It also critiques ambition and war, in particular their lopsided effects on women. This magnificent film is required viewing for any film buff.
Seven Samurai (1954)
Kurosawa's most lauded work. This film is so much more than a group of samurai defending a village from bandits. It's an examination of class/caste, a noble attempt to uphold the social contract even in chaotic times, and the devastating fallout that occurs when old paradigms fail. Brilliant film.
I've chosen the final film in the Human Condition trilogy to represent the full trilogy. Watching this series is like slowly plodding through hell (which is what it feels like the main character, Kaji, is doing the entire time.) By the end of that long march you will have a brand new perspective on World War II and possibly a new perspective on life as well. These are hard films to watch, but the journey and the drama make it well worth it.
Throne of Blood (1957)
Where Ran borrows from (and improves upon) King Lear, Throne Of Blood borrows from (and vastly improves upon) Macbeth. An epic tale of ambition and fatal karma.
Abandoning his earlier, all too optimistic attitudes about heroism and individualism, Kurosawa explores the importance of the social contract and loyal service to the group/clan in the interests of the greater good. In that vein you could say it's his "most Japanese film", as he was often criticized for adopting too many western ideas. It's certainly the Kurosawa film that's most packed with subtext, metaphors, and symbolism. You can study this film endlessly and still not grasp all its concepts.
Best. Mind fuck. Ever.
Fluid action, beauty, conflicting philosophies. What more could you possibly want?
Battle Royale (2000)
Curse of the Golden Flower (2006)
Shakespearean action and tragedy via epic Chinese period piece. This film is not as famous as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and was considered by many to be "too over the top", but I love that about it.
Ancient weapons, romance, gender roles, elegant wire-fu. Awesome.
Loosely based on the historical figure Huo Yuanjia, this action epic got almost everything right. Intense fight scenes and moving drama. Good stuff.
Five Element Ninjas (1982)
The single greatest film of the Shaw Brothers / Chang Cheh era of kung fu films (but not as well known as the Five Deadly Venoms series.) It is both an action piece and a simple, but well told revenge story. Chinese martial artists vs invading Japanese ninjas. Go! Watch it now!
I've seen quite a few Asian films that have tried to convincingly mix the eastern aesthetic with the aesthetic of the "wild west." This is the only one that succeeded, in my opinion. Great action/adventure romp.
My top 15 movies from the far east.
Each of these is a "must see" film!
Each of these is a "must see" film!
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