Over the past year, many film groups around the world have been celebrating the centennial of Akira Kurosawa’s birth – check with your local indie theaters to see if they have anything planned. From the Berkeley Art Museum:
Born in 1910 in a Japan just emerging from its isolation, Kurosawa studied painting and literature, especially Dostoevsky and Gorky; after the suicide of his influential older brother in 1933, he abandoned his art career and entered filmmaking, ascending from the lower rungs of Toho Studios to become one of Japan’s, and the world’s, most important directors. His rise to prominence in the 1950s coincided with (and helped create) the rise of the “art film,” but that label only obscures his many styles and talents. He adapted Shakespeare, Russian novels, and American detective stories, ancient Japanese plays and contemporary Tokyo tales; and worked in every genre from crime dramas to samurai films, large-scale feudal epics to intimate character pieces. All his films were united by an embrace of ordinary humanity and heroism (and, in many cases, laughter), the heroism not of fighting or conquest, but of devoting oneself to a greater good, and achieving it.
If you’ve not seen any of his films before, I would suggest starting with Yojimbo and Ikiru.