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"Repertory Cinema 2017" to showcase kindness and selflessness in Kurosawa's works
     The films of Japanese film master Akira Kurosawa not only influenced Eastern and Western cinematic productions, but also hold a special position as a moral beacon. Presented by the Film Programmes Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, in collaboration with the Japan Foundation and supported by the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong, "Repertory Cinema 2017: In Memory of Japanese Film Master - Kindness & Selflessness: The Doctrine of Kurosawa Akira" is curated by Law Wai-ming. Twelve celebrated works by Kurosawa will be screened at the Cinema of the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) and the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum from October 28 to November 19. 
     Kurosawa saw his career as a filmmaker truly take off when Japan was undergoing reconstruction after the war. Not only was material comfort yet to be restored, but the integrity of the Japanese people as well. Therefore, under the lens of Kurosawa, it is not merely the samurai who has the obligation to follow the warrior's code; ordinary people also have to uphold the moral ground in order to overcome every temptation and challenge.
     Kurosawa's debut "Sanshiro Sugata" (1943) features the young Sanshiro Sugata, who becomes a pupil of judo master Yano after seeing Yano defeat a group of opponents single-handedly. Under Yano's instruction, on top of gaining fighting skills, Sugata must undergo spiritual enlightenment to be a true master. Kurosawa masterfully used framing and the actor's body language to replace a large amount of dialogue in the film. This box office hit earned Kurosawa the Yamanaka Sadao Prize (Best New Director of the Year) in 1943.
     Set amid the rise of militarism, "No Regrets for Our Youth" (1946) tells of a law professor who is being persecuted for his liberal views. Several years later when Japan starts an all-out war with China, Noge, a student of the professor, has become a respected China expert who provides military advice to the government but actually carries out antiwar activities in secret. Furthermore, Noge is in love with the professor's daughter, which causes suffering for the couple. The trademarks of Kurosawa's work, such as humanism and the quest for justice, can be traced to having started in this film. The film was the No. 2 film of the Kinema Junpo (Kinejun) Top 5 in 1946.
     In "The Quiet Duel" (1949), a doctor is infected with syphilis while operating on a soldier. The doctor then rejects his fiancée simply out of the fear of transmitting the disease to her. Subsequently the doctor takes in a dancer who has been impregnated and dumped by a playboy, and he is mistaken as a womaniser. After finding out that his fiancée has married another man, the doctor can no longer withhold his painful truth. The film was the No. 8 film of the Kinejun Top 10 in 1949.
     "Scandal" (1950) is a demonstration of Kurosawa's discontent towards the twisted practices of the Japanese press at the time. A young painter has a chance to talk with an up-and-coming singer on an outing. Their encounter is photographed by a tabloid and a sleazy story is then fabricated. The painter moves to sue the tabloid, but the tabloid has appointed a well-known law scholar to represent it and also schemes to bribe the painter's lawyer. The film was the No. 6 film of the Kinejun Top 10 in 1950.
     "To Live" (1952) adopts a simple story to explore the meaning of life. Watanabe is a bureaucrat in charge of the Citizens' Section who has been adept in creating red tape over the past 30 years. When he is diagnosed with a terminal case of stomach cancer, Watanabe decides to work hard for the citizens' welfare in the rest of his life. The film was the No. 1 film of the Kinejun Top 10 in 1952 and won other awards.
     In "Seven Samurai" (1954), veteran warrior Kanbei is moved by the plight of villagers willing to defend their homes against bandits' raids, and six more fighters join him without considering fame and fortune. The film won Kurosawa the Silver Lion for Best Director at the Venice Film Festival in 1954. Hollywood's western classic "The Magnificent Seven" (1960) is a remake of the film.
     "The Hidden Fortress" (1958) not only earned Kurosawa the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1959, but also served as inspiration for George Lucas' "Star Wars" (1977). In the film, the Akizuki clan is annihilated by the Yamana clan. General Makabe of the Akizuki clan protects Princess Yuki to escape and also hides gold bars inside firewood for restoring their fallen clan in the future. Along the way, peasants Tahei and Matakishi are tempted to join the General and embark on a dangerous trip.
     Kurosawa considered corruption of officials as a serious crime. In "The Bad Sleep Well" (1960), Koichi's father, who is a government official, kills himself after being suspected of rigging a tender. Koichi later finds out his father was just a scapegoat, so he takes on a false identity to join the department for revenge. The film also suggests that one should keep a clear conscience while combating evil so as to avoid becoming evil too. The film was the No. 3 film of the Kinejun Top 10 in 1960.
     "Yojimbo" (1961) follows masterless samurai Sanjuro as he drifts into a town being turned into a battle zone by two gangs. Sanjuro then schemes to provoke the two gangs into an all-out war through which peace can be restored. Apart from being able to witness brilliant swordfights, audiences can also be satisfied with the deadly punishment of the villains. The film was the No. 2 film of the Kinejun Top 10 in 1961 and Toshiro Mifune, playing Sanjuro, was recognised as Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival in 1961. The story was later adapted for the spaghetti western classic "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964).
     Kondo in "High and Low" (1963) is an executive of a shoe enterprise who has mortgaged everything in order to take over the business for himself. Kondo suddenly receives a phone call asking him to pay a ransom to get back his son, but the kidnapper has actually mistakenly kidnapped the son of Kondo's chauffeur instead, making Kondo fall into the biggest struggle in life. The film was the No. 2 film of the Kinejun Top 10 in 1963.
     "Red Beard" (1965) features the young Yasumoto who has studied Western medicine for several years and wishes to become the Shogun's attending physician. However, he is assigned to a government clinic for the poor managed by Niide, who is known as "Red Beard". The eminent Red Beard has given up a life of ease in order to serve the poor, and Yasumoto gradually understands benevolence of Red Beard. The film earned male lead Mifune the Best Actor prize again at the Venice Film Festival in 1965 and also won other awards.
     The 75-year-old Kurosawa set the Shakespeare play "King Lear" in Japan's feudal times for his great work "Ran" (1985), in which the three daughters of the original become three sons. The war-weary warlord Hidetora decides to step down by dividing his domain among his three sons. The youngest son, Saburo, speaks out against the plan as he understands the characters of his two brothers and he is in turn expelled by his father. Saburo subsequently forgives his father and helps him to take revenge against his brothers' immorality. The film won multiple awards including Best Costume Design in the Academy Awards in 1986 and Best Foreign Language Film in the BAFTA Awards in 1987.
     To complement the screenings, programme curator Law Wai-ming and film critics Long Tin and William Lau will host a seminar entitled "Kindness & Selflessness: The Doctrine of Kurosawa Akira" at 4.30pm on October 29 at the HKFA Cinema. It will be conducted in Cantonese with free admission. In addition, a free post-secondary screening for "No Regrets for Our Youth" will be held at 7.30pm on November 3 at the Lecture Hall of the Hong Kong Science Museum for post-secondary students on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is required.
     "No Regrets for Our Youth", "The Quiet Duel", "To Live", "Seven Samurai", "High and Low" and "Ran" have Chinese and English subtitles. The other films are with English subtitles.
     Tickets priced at $55 are now available at URBTIX (www.urbtix.hk). For credit card telephone bookings, please call 2111 5999. For programme and registration details for the free post-secondary screening, please call 2734 2900 or visit www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp/en_US/web/fpo/programmes/rc2017/index.html.
Ends/Thursday, September 28, 2017
Issued at HKT 17:23
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