Akira Kurosawa

In 1951, when knowledge of Japanese for many people was still limited to "sayonara" and "hara-kiri," a movie from the country won top prize at the Venice Film Festival, and two more Japanese words entered the common language: Kurosawa and Rashomon.

For nearly a half-century, Akira Kurosawa reigned supreme as the emperor of Japanese, indeed Asian, cinema. He was also a prime mover in explaining his country to a world in which Japan's wartime cruelty was still very much a fresh memory. Rashomon, in which four people (one of them a ghost) tell conflicting versions of an encounter...

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