Magnificent Four

Magnificent Four

You might be familiar with the sound and fury of Kurosawa,but how about The Quiet Duel and his last hurrah Madadayo?

Akira Kurosawa’s films are not meant to be watched on any thing but the big screen. Most of his movies are located in vast spaces: rolling slopes,castles perched on crags,dense forests. The camera is usually far away from the actors: you see the action from a distance,which forces you to be alert to every little thing in the frame. But it is not everyday that you get a Kurosawa in a theatre-next-door,so we recommend the latest Shemaroo offering of a splendidly produced DVD box set. It has four of his films: Rashomon,Ran,A Quiet Duel and his last hurrah Madadayo.

Three men shelter from the rain,and a story unfolds. A samurai and his lady are making their way through the forest when they are set upon by a fierce bandit. One is killed,two remain alive. If you are watching Rashomon for the first time,you will be struck by the way in which the director uses natural elements,a riveting actor called Toshiro Mifune who plays the bandit and,of course,the way Kurosawa uses parallel tracks to tell the same story. Ran is his other classic. One of Kurosawa’s strongest influences was Shakespeare,and here he takes off on King Lear.

The Quiet Duel is an early Kurosawa,set in the last days of World War II. A doctor,infected with syphilis as he operates upon a soldier,turns his back on the woman he loves without telling her why. It is when that same soldier turns up with his pregnant wife in his clinic some time later,that he is torn between telling and keeping silent. Mifune plays the doctor with quiet grace.

Madadayo is Kurosawa’s thirtieth and final film,about a well-loved teacher and the relationships he forged over the years. Unlike his sound-and-fury films,this one is gentle and unhurried,perhaps reflective of a creator who was getting ready to slow down,despite the resounding sound of the title in the film. Madadayo means “not yet!”.