When accused once of bias in favor of Lou Reed, rock journalist Lester Bangs replied (in paraphrase), "I would kiss the feet of Lou Reed for the same reasons that I would kiss the feet of those that drafted The Magna Carta." That's a grandiose statement to be sure, but we think we know where the sentiment stems from, and it can be wholly applied to the work and legacy of the Japanese filmmaking luminary Akira Kurosawa. Once called "the world's greatest living director" (after his passing in 1998, let's simply drop "living" and go with the remainder), Akira is responsible for more than a handful of cinema's certifiable masterpieces that range from rollicking period epics to socially critical contemporary stories. It's for obvious reasons--like Rashomon, Yojimbo, Seven Samurai and Throne of Blood--that followers the world over are enamored so with Kurosawa (and his favorite doppelganger, Toshiro Mifune), and that affection and appreciation is as eternal and universal as the themes in the man's work.
Not overtly political, nationalistic or even controversial, Akira garnered even more acclaim and success worldwide than he ever did in his homeland, and his productions remain as resonant and important as ever. The Magnolia Cinematheque's month-long celebration is primed and ready to begin this Friday, and there's no better way to familiarize yourself with his work...or just fall in love with it all over again. We don't want to hear the "I-don't-like-subtitles" excuse, either. If you can keep up with the information blitzkrieg on CNN or ESPN, you can follow a film spoken in a foreign language. Promise.
From industrialized noir to samurai slashers to meditations on life itself, we're getting three pictures a week four times over, and with the separate addition of Ikiru, Dallas has the most comprehensive festival on the circuit. "They" don't make them like Kurosawa anymore, and consequently, Kurosawa made "them" like no one else. This is an affirmation as much as it is a retrospective, and it's the film event of the year in Dallas.