Gregory Kirschling
March 28, 2005 AT 05:00 AM EST


Current Status
In Season
Tatsuya Nakadai, Tsutomu Yamazaki
Akira Kurosawa
Masato Ide, Akira Kurosawa
Foreign Language

We gave it a B+

Japan’s greatest director, Akira Kurosawa, was so down-and-out in the late ’70s that he ended up shilling Suntory whiskey in TV commercials. He couldn’t even find backing for Kagemusha until superfans George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola twisted Fox’s arm. The film, an often breathtaking but slightly bloodless samurai epic about a petty thief who stands in for a secretly dead 16th-century feudal warlord (think Dave), went on to win a Palme d’Or at Cannes. Yet even this restored three-hour original Japanese version is still rightly viewed as just an impressive dress rehearsal for Kurosawa’s 1985 epic, Ran, which is — with apologies to Seven Samurai and Rashomon — his most flabbergastingly magnificent work. EXTRAS Outstanding commentary by a Kurosawa expert; a heavy helping of the filmmaker’s 200 storyboards; a 41-minute making-of doc; and a 20-minute interview with Coppola and Lucas, who sound surprisingly measured about the film. And if you’re wondering where Sofia Coppola got the idea for the Bill Murray whiskey ads in Lost in Translation, check out the two Suntory commercials starring Kurosawa and her dad.

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