Best known for his samurai movies (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, et al.), Japan’s Akira Kurosawa (1910–1998) also directed many nonaction dramas during his 57-year career. But those works are screened less frequently than his chanbara (sword-fighting) movies. In November and December 2019, we present three of the least shown of them: No Regrets for Our Youth (1946), The Idiot (1951), and The Lower Depths (1957).
These films’ absence from movie screens is puzzling when one considers that the first two star Setsuko Hara, the beloved Japanese actress celebrated for her work with Yasujiro Ozu, and the latter two feature Kurosawa’s frequent lead Toshiro Mifune, the star of most of the director’s most revered and revived works. No Regrets for Our Youth, Kurosawa’s first postwar film, looks back sympathetically on the radical politics of the 1930s, when ardent leftists openly challenged the country’s incipient militarism. The other two movies derive from Russian literature (though the stories have been transposed to Japan)—The Idiot from Dostoevsky, The Lower Depths from Maxim Gorky. Although The Idiot was severely truncated by the studio before it was released (Kurosawa’s original four-hour cut no longer exists) and thus plagued with problems, The Lower Depths is regarded as a model for how to turn a single-set stage play into something cinematic.
Curator of Film
All shown in Morley Lecture Hall. Each film $10, CMA members $7.
This rare Kurosawa work with a female protagonist is set in 1930s Japan, after the country’s invasion of Manchuria. The daughter of a professor dismissed for his antimilitarist views falls for a young leftist who has his own troubles with the right-wing government.
Maxim Gorky’s tale of the poor and the dispossessed is transposed to a Japanese tenement during the Edo period. Problems arise when a gambler falls in love with his landlady’s younger sister.